UT Martin men fall in triple overtime thriller at Tech

UT Martin men fall in triple overtime thriller at Tech

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

COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – The University of Tennessee at Martin men’s basketball team bared its heart and soul on the floor of the Eblen Center Thursday night, overcoming a 15-point, deficit before falling in triple overtime in an all-out battle, 109-105, to Tennessee Tech.
It was the first triple overtime game the Skyhawks have been a part of since their memorable 101-94 victory over Samford in the Ohio Valley Conference tournament quarterfinals on March 4, 2008.
Troy King led the Skyhawks in scoring at Tech, as he accounted for 22 points while pulling down a career-high nine rebounds in 41 minutes. It was the fifth time the Gaithersburg, Md., product has led UT Martin in scoring this season.
Reuben Clayton (18 points) was the next highest scorer for the Skyhawks (4-14, 0-7 OVC), who placed five players in double figures and had two others score nine points. Benzor Simmons and Mike Liabo each poured in 14 points. Terence Smith added 13 points for UT Martin. Freshman Omari Minor also enjoyed his best collegiate game, setting career highs in points (nine), assists (seven) and minutes (34).
For Tennessee Tech (8-7, 4-2 OVC), Kevin Murphy led the way with a game-high 25 points in 51 minutes.
In a game that featured 18 lead changes and 17 ties, UT Martin head coach Jason James thought the contest was just another stage in the growing-up process for his young Skyhawks.
“Obviously, we weren’t happy with the outcome but we’re starting to get better,” James said. “We had every opportunity to win the basketball game and we have to get better at a lot of things but I thought there were stretches tonight when we were pretty good. Down the stretch in the overtimes, we’re playing with four freshmen. It was just an overall great effort – it’s a testament to these guys and how hard they played and how hard they battled and I’ll be the first to tell you, I’m proud of our guys tonight.”
Both sides started slowly from the floor, combining for just four points through the game’s first 3:36. The teams traded buckets to produce five ties until Liabo sank a leaner at the 10:04 mark to put UT Martin up 17-15.
Those were the last points for the Skyhawks over the next 5:11, as Tennessee Tech went on a 13-0 run to go ahead by 11. Terence Smith found Andres Irarrazabal for a give-and-go layup with 4:03 remaining in the half to end the UT Martin drought. The Golden Eagles pushed their lead back to 11 before the Skyhawks scored five unanswered points to get within six on a Troy King trey.
The margin stayed at six at halftime, as Tennessee Tech led 34-28.
The Skyhawks turned things around on the defensive end and UT Martin’s offense heated up as well. King got things started with a 3-pointer, then a forced turnover led to a thunderous Clayton dunk.
King buried another trey at the 18:32 mark and coupled with two Clayton free throws for a 12-4 Skyhawks run to tie the game at 38-all.
The Golden Eagles then pieced together a 15-0 run. Tennessee Tech kept its lead at double figures until Simmons ignited a Skyhawk run. The 6-5 Miami native scored six points in a span of 19 seconds.
After another stop, Minor found Liabo for a layup off a fancy no-look pass that put UT Martin’s run at 9-0.
The Golden Eagles extended their lead to 74-68 at the 3:38 mark, but the Skyhawks produced another run. Minor scored on a drive, Simmons made two free throws, and after an Irarrazabal steal, Liabo drained a deep trey to give UT Martin a 75-74 edge with 1:48 left in regulation.
Tennessee Tech went back on top on two buckets by Bailey to give the Golden Eagles a 3-point cushion with 1:30 remaining. That was the last Tech field goal in regulation, as the Skyhawks got a free throw from Irarrazabal and a bucket inside from Terence Smith to tie the game at 78-all with 48 seconds left.
UT Martin had the ball with 16 seconds left in regulation, but could not get a shot, resulting in the Skyhawks’ first overtime game since an 87-82 win at Austin Peay on Feb. 5, 2009.
The first overtime ended in an 87-all tie. King had an open look from 15-feet with two seconds remaining, but his jumper rattled off the rim as time expired.
In the second OT, Swansey hit a 3-pointer with 35 seconds left to put the Tech up by two, but the Skyhawks came right back. Clayton scored on a backdoor layup off a Minor feed with 23 seconds to play. The Skyhawks got another big defensive stop to send the game into triple OT.
After an early three-point lead on King free throws, Tech pulled ahead and took the  109-105 victory.

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