Bradley ‘busts’ cold Skyhawks

Bradley ‘busts’ cold Skyhawks
‘Can’t-miss’ turned into ‘can’t-make’ at the worst of times for UT Martin.
After shooting 56 percent in the first half — including a blistering 64 percent from 3-point range —the Skyhawks went stone cold over the last 10 minutes to allow Bradley to rally for an 81-75 victory Saturday in a Sears/ESPN Bracketbuster game at The Elam Center.
UTM made just four of its final 21 shots and missed seven of 10 free throws after taking their largest lead of the contest at 64-56 midway through the second half.
All totaled, the Skyhawks hit just 30 percent (11-of-36) of its field goal attempts over the final 20 minutes — a 2-of-9 effort from beyond the arc included — and made just half of its 14 tries from the foul line.
“With us still being so young, I think after we missed a couple, we started thinking about those misses instead of all the makes we had in the first half,” UTM coach Jason James said of his squad that includes three freshman starters.
“And that has a carryover effect with an inexperienced team. We let the fact that we weren’t making shots bother us on the defensive end and we didn’t do a very good job of stopping them.”
Lights-out marksmanship by the Skyhawks in the first half — especially from first-year player Troy King, who made 5-of-6 from beyond the arc to lead a 9-for-14 effort from that distance for his team — gave UTM a 44-39 lead.
UT Martin (10-19), which made a season-high 11 3-pointers in all, got its only two second-half long balls from King and fellow frosh Mike Liabo and a third-chance bucket from a hustling Rueben Clayton with 10:45 mark to gain its biggest lead with 10:45 to play.
From there, though, the Skyhawks were outscored 25-11 — going without a single tally for one three-minute stretch when the visiting Braves (10-18) caught up with just under eight minutes to play.
A fadeaway jumper by Terrence Smith with 4:57 to go gave UTM its last lead at 68-66 before Bradley took its first advantage since the 5:32 mark of the first half and one they kept for good on a bucket by Jake Eastman.
UT Martin then missed its next five attempts from the field and 2-of-4 free throws, while the Braves got buckets from three different players, including Andrew Warren, the leading scorer in the Missouri Valley Conference (18.4), who scored 12 of his 16 in the second half.
King, who hit just 1-of-7 field goal attempts after the intermission, still led UTM and tied Bradley’s Walt Lemon Jr. for game-high scoring honors with 20 points.
The Skyhawks had five players with 10 or more markers in all, with Smith (15), Clayton (14), Liabo (10) and Benzor Simmons (10) all a part of that lot.
Though disappointed at the outcome, James remained upbeat about his youthful club’s prospects of earning a spot in the upcoming eight-team Ohio Valley Conference Tournament.
The Skyhawks need either a win in one of its two final games against Eastern Kentucky and Morehead, or a loss by Eastern Illinois vs. either Austin Peay or Tennessee State to qualify for the event.
“This was a good test for us against a good, rugged basketball team, and I think we can use some of the things we learned in our next two games,” the coach concluded. “Obviously, they’re big games, and we’re excited about having the opportunity to get into the tournament with such a young bunch.”
UTM hosts EKU Thursday and Morehead on Saturday.
UTM 85, SEMO 55 (W)
The UT Martin women’s basketball team made 16 3-pointers and shot 47 percent from behind the arc to cruise  Saturday afternoon.
With the victory, the Skyhawks are now 17-10 overall and 12-4 in the Ohio Valley Conference. The Skyhawks, tied for second in the league standings, will wrap up the their 2010-11 regular season on Thursday at home against Eastern Kentucky. Tipoff is set for 7:30 p.m.
The Skyhawks made 10-of-22 3-pointers in the first half and 6-of-12 treys in the second half. Freshman Jaclissa Haislip hit her first five 3-pointer attempts and was 6-of-7 from behind the arch with 18 points.
Freshman Heather Butler made 4-of-10 3-pointers in the game and finished with 19 points. Butler tied the school record for most 3-pointer made in a single season (72) with her first trey of the game. She made three more 3-pointers and has now netted 75 3-pointers this season, which is the most made in a single season. She averages 2.9 3-pointers per game which is among the top 20 in the nation.
Perica Glenn and Taylor Hall scored seven and six points respectively.
Sports editor Mike Hutchens can be contacted by e-mail at mhutch@ucmessenger.com.

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