Skyhawk seniors clutch late as UTM picks up OVC win

Skyhawk seniors clutch late as UTM picks up OVC win

Posted: Wednesday, January 19, 2011 12:02 am

Skyhawk seniors clutch late as UTM picks up OVC win

SIMMONS
JACKSONVILLE, Ala. – Senior Reuben Clayton sank a pair of clutch free throws with nine seconds remaining to help The University of Tennessee at Martin men’s basketball team capture its first Ohio Valley Conference win of the season in a 63-60 triumph over Jacksonville State at Pete Mathews Coliseum Saturday night.
Benzor Simmons recorded a game-high 16 points, doing most of his damage from the charity stripe (10-for-11). In a return to his home state, freshman Terence Smith netted 13 points and a game-high five assists, while Troy King also reached double figures with 10 points. Dane Smith pulled down a game-high 10 rebounds for UT Martin, which shot 51.4 percent (19-for-37).
Nick Murphy led Jacksonville State with 15 points and seven rebounds, while Jeremy Bynum chipped in 13 points for the Gamecocks (2-16, 0-7 OVC).
With the win, the Skyhawks surpassed their win total from last season.
 “We got this win off our backs,” UT Martin head coach Jason James said. “We were able to execute for 40 minutes. It’s been a long time coming since we played a whole basketball game. I’m really proud of our young men.”
As a team, the Skyhawks showed tremendous balance, as no player attempted more than seven shots.
“Balance is kind of our middle name and we have to be balanced to be good,” James said. “When we’re balanced, everybody is getting their chance, sharing the ball and taking shots, we’re hard to stop and we’re pretty good.”
UT Martin’s defense made the difference early, as the Skyhawks forced three Jacksonville State turnovers and two missed shots in the game’s first 2:32. In that time, UT Martin had already opened a 6-0 lead, led by four points from King.
After scoring their first field goal, however, the Gamecocks found a rhythm, putting together a 10-2 run over a span of 3:30 to take a brief 12-10 lead. A pair of Mike Liabo free throws and a free throw by King put UT Martin back on top, a lead they did not relinquish until almost four minutes later.
Dominique Spellman hit a 3-pointer from the left wing with 9:04 left in the half to give Jacksonville State a 20-18 advantage, but Liabo drilled a 3-pointer from the right wing just 17 seconds later to give the Skyhawks a one-point edge. UT Martin pushed its lead to five points until an off-balance jumper by Nick Murphy at the 2:16 mark capped a 7-0 Gamecock run to give Jacksonville State a 29-27 lead.
However, the Skyhawks recovered well, as an old-fashioned 3-point play by Dane Smith on the next possession tilted the lead in UT Martin’s favor at 30-29. That began a stretch where the Skyhawks scored seven of the last eight points of the half to take a 34-30 lead at the halftime break.
King and Liabo each scored seven first-half points to lead the Skyhawks, who shot a scorching 62.5 percent (10-for-16) in the game’s first 20 minutes. Jeremy Bynum’s eight points led the Gamecocks.
The Skyhawks extended their lead to five points on two separate occasions until a Simmons jumper with 14:54 to go gave UT Martin a 40-33 lead. For the next four-plus minutes, the Skyhawk offense went silent – not converting a field goal and allowing Jacksonville State to tie the game at 42-all with 11:23 remaining.
King let fly a 3-pointer that connected at the 10:15 mark to propel the Skyhawks back on top, 45-42, and Simmons followed that with two more free throws to give UT Martin a five-point cushion.
Jacksonville State then scored six unanswered points to take a 48-47 lead, triggering a slew of lead changes. Over the next 1:47, the lead changed hands five times, the last on a Terence Smith 3-pointer from the left wing with 4:11 to play.
Two Simmons free throws and a strong drive to the hoop by Terence Smith gave UT Martin a six-point lead, but Jacksonville State came storming right back. Twice the Gamecocks sliced their deficit to two before a pair of Murphy free throws made the score 61-60 with 43 seconds left.
On the ensuing possession, a Terence Smith jumper rimmed out and Andres Irarrazabal batted the ball in the air. In the scrum for the loose ball, Liabo emerged with possession and quickly called a timeout with nine seconds to go.
Before the Skyhawks could get the inbounds pass in, Jacksonville State elected to foul Clayton. The senior toed the line and swished both attempts to put UT Martin ahead 63-60. Jacksonville State’s Sean Thurston attempted a desperation 3-pointer from the wing with three ticks left, but the shot caromed off the rim and into the hands of Terence Smith, who dribbled out the rest of the clock to seal the UT Martin win.
UT Martin returns to the Kathleen and Tom Elam Center on Thursday when it takes on the Southeast Missouri Redhawks at 7 p.m.

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