UTM men fall just short again

UTM men fall just short again
UTM men fall just short again

UT Martin’s Terence Smith passes behind a Tennessee State defender during the Skyhawks’ defeat on Saturday night.
If anything, UT Martin’s 67-64 defeat to Tennessee State on Saturday was a commentary on its season up until this point.
The Skyhawks again cut into a halftime deficit as they have many times this season — tying the contest on three occasions in the second half — but ultimately fell short of getting their first Ohio Valley Conference win of the campaign.
Even more painful was the fact that the UTM men (4-12, 0-5) had a golden opportunity to make a go-ahead score with eight seconds remaining, yet it was squandered.
At that point in the game with the score 65-64 in favor of the Tigers, the Skyhawks attempted to inbound the basketball with a short pass on the baseline after a timeout.
However, the roundball was tipped by TSU and Wil Peters chased down the basketball to deny UT Martin even a shot in its quest to take the lead.
“We haven’t put together a complete 40 minutes yet,” second-year UTM head coach Jason James said. “If we ever do that, I think we have a chance to be good. Tonight, we had a good 30 minutes, but there was a 10 minute stretch in the first half where we weren’t mentally focused.
“We’re young, but you can only say that for so long. I’m hopeful that we’re nearing the point where we can turn the corner.”
In the opener, the Skyhawk women (9-7) finished Saturday evening in a three-way tie atop the OVC after their 83-67 besting of Tennessee State.
Saturday’s win was the 10th in a row for the UT Martin ladies at the Kathleen and Tom Elam Center.
The UTM women (4-1 in OVC action) are knotted up with Tennessee Tech and Eastern Illinois in the league standings. The UT Martin women return to action Thursday at Tennessee Tech.
The Skyhawk men hit the hardwood again this evening at home against Austin Peay and former head coach Bret Campbell — now in his second stint as an assistant with the Governors. Tipoff for tonight’s game is set for 6 p.m.
TSU 67, UTM 64 (M)
If not for a lackluster stretch during the first half, the Skyhawks may have won Saturday.
Ahead 13-9 in the first half, the UT Martin men fell apart for a span of nearly five minutes as the Tigers (7-9, 4-2) embarked upon a 17-0 run.
During the dry spell, UTM missed all five of its shots (four from 3-point range) and committed four turnovers.
When the spurt ended, Tennessee State had built a 26-13 cushion.
In the second half, UT Martin made three serious runs at taking the lead.
The Skyhawks tied the game at 48-all on a Reuben Clayton free throw with just under 13 minutes remaining, but the team was unsuccessful on a trio of attempts to go ahead with a missed charity toss, trey and deuce.
With 9:55 left, UTM again tied the contest — at 50-all this time — but the Tigers strung together a 7-0 run to deny the host team’s advances.
Finally, the Skyhawks’ last run at the lead came in the final 35 seconds with the score 65-62 in favor of TSU.
UTM’s Omari Minor forced a jump ball and the possession arrow was in the Skyhawks’ favor. That steal led to an Andres Irarrazabal deuce to make it a one-point game.
A missed free throw by Tennessee State’s Robert Covington gave UT Martin the chance to go ahead, but the aforementioned tipped inbounds pass took the wind out of the host team’s sail.
Clayton scored 14 points, while Irarrazabal totaled 12 points and Mike Liabo offered 11 points for the Skyhawk men.
UTM 83, TSU 67 (W)
The UT Martin women led by as many as 20 points in the first half, but Tennessee State made a serious run at the lead early in the second half.
When UTM finally regained its bearings, the Lady Tigers (5-10, 2-4) were within six points — down 49-43.
“My gut feeling at halftime was that we weren’t playing with the intensity that we needed to be,” Skyhawk women’s coach Kevin McMillan said, referencing a 7-2 TSU run just before the first half ended. “I told them (in the locker room at intermission) that if they left the door open, there was a chance TSU could get back into the game.
“I wasn’t going to call a timeout when they (TSU) made that run because our girls made the bed and we were going to lie in it. If we needed to learn a lesson from this, I hope we did.”
Jasmine Newsome poured in a team-best 24 points for the Skyhawk women, while Heather Butler — back after missing Thursday’s game with strep throat — had 13.
Fellow guard Taylor Hall also finished in twin figures with 12 points for UT Martin, while Rickiesha Bryant provided a double-double (10 tallies and 12 rebounds) from the bench.
Sports reporter Kenneth Coker can be contacted by e-mail at kcoker@ucmessenger.com.

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