Benzor gives best in UTM comeback

Benzor gives best in UTM comeback
EDWARDSVILLE, Ill. — UT Martin senior Benzor Simmons picked a fine time to turn in his best effort of the season.
The senior forward, who entered play on Tuesday just nine points shy of becoming the 15th member of the school’s 1,000-point club, went off for a season-high 26 points to facilitate a come-from-behind 78-69 victory against SIU Edwardsville.
Simmons made five of his 11 field goal attempts to lead UT Martin (8-14) — winners of four straight games for the first time since February 2009.
In addition to joining the 1,000 point club, Simmons was a free throw shy of tying the UTM record for most charity tosses made in a game.
The Miami native finished 16-of-18 from the foul line. As a team, UT Martin hit 30 of its 36 attempts from the charity stripe.
“We shot 59 percent from the free throw line last game and that’s unacceptable,” Skyhawk head coach Jason James said. “So, we took some time the last two days and shot a lot of free throws and that really paid off tonight. I think that’s what won us the game.”
Reuben Clayton was the next highest scorer for the Skyhawks, as he poured in 16 points.
Freshman Terence Smith also enjoyed a big night for UT Martin as he accumulated 15 points and team-highs of nine rebounds and four assists. After not scoring in his previous nine games played, UTM’s Chris Richardson set a new career-high with eight points in 16 minutes for the Skyhawks.
Cornelius Chatt’s 20 points led the Cougars, as he and Corey Wickware (11 points) were the only SIU Edwardsville players to reach double-figures in the scoring column.
Dobrivoje Mavrak pulled down a game-high 12 rebounds for SIU Edwardsville, who were forced into 21 turnovers by the ferocious Skyhawk defense.
An old-fashioned 3-point play by Smith got things started for the Skyhawks in the second half, getting UT Martin back within a point at 36-35. Less than 90 seconds later, however, the Cougars extended their lead out to six points.
Back-to-back inside buckets by Clayton and Troy King made the score 43-41, and a backdoor layup by Simmons got the Skyhawks back within one at 46-45 with 13:12 remaining.
Consecutive baskets by Chatt once again shot SIU Edwardsville’s lead back out to six, but the Skyhawks once again crept closer by sinking free throws.
Four more free throws in four attempts handed the Skyhawks a three-point advantage with 4:55 to play. Smith then took over, scoring six straight points over a stretch of 1:21 to make the score 68-64 in UT Martin’s favor with 3:34 remaining. The Cougars got back within one point with 2:45 left, but that would ultimately be as close as they would get.
UT Martin returns to Ohio Valley Conference play on Saturday when it takes the short trip to the CFSB Center to take on Murray State at 7:30 p.m.

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