UTM keeps in sight for half

UTM keeps in sight for half
UTM keeps in sight for half
For 20 minutes Saturday, David still had Goliath in his (or her) sights.
Unfortunately, the little guy (or girl) could never hit the much bigger target.
UT Martin shot just 26 percent in the second half, allowing big, bad Duke to overwhelm and eventually crush the Skyhawks 90-45 Saturday in the opening round of the NCAA Women’s Tournament Philadelphia Regional in Durham, N.C.
The sixth-ranked Blue Devils — improving to 30-3 overall and 16-0 on the Cameron Indoor Stadium homecourt — opened the second half with a 9-0 run and then had spurts of 8-1 and 12-0 in a final 20 minutes in which they outscored UTM 49-14.
Duke, which featured a roster of seven players six-foot or taller, dominated the paint by a 46-16 margin, a factor equally as telling as the Skyhawks’ poor shooting that included a 4-for-17 (23.5 percent) effort that was part of 34.9 percent shooting in all.
The Blue Devils, meanwhile, shot 53.6 percent from the floor, in addition to controlling the post play.
“We missed shots we’ve made all year,” UT Martin head coach Kevin McMillan said afterward. “We’re obviously not that bad a shooting team, and we got a lot of the shots we wanted — especially in the first half and we didn’t knock them down. And Duke’s probably normally not as good as they shot today.
“As far as the size differential, to say they’re huge is an understatement. They guarded (Heather) Butler with a 6-1 girl and (Jasmine) Newsome with a 5-11 All American. That’s against a 5-5 and 5-7 player. In the second half, we just wore down.”
The final statistics supported McMillan’s claim as UTM’s guard duo that ranked in the Top 5 nationally in freshman scoring at 19.1 and 17.8 ppg, respectively, was limited to a combined 24 points on 8-of-28 shooting. Also, the two were charged with 15 of their team’s 24 turnovers.
In the first half, though, and before committing as many turnovers (14) as it had points, the Skyhawks held their own against a tradition-rich opponent that has never lost a first round game and has finished as national runnersup twice among its four Final 4 appearances.
And UT Martin did so without shooting a high percentage or doing anything particularly special.
“That’s the thing that I think was so stunning as, after their first spurt, we played the No. 6 team in the nation even while not playing our best,” the Skyhawk coach added.
After Duke made its first five shots and scored on six of its first seven possessions, UTM weathered the early storm and was within 15-10 after a Butler backdoor cut and layup.
The Skyhawks spread the floor to take advantage of their decided backcourt quickness against the bigger-but-slower Blue Devils and often blew past them on the drive while getting makeable shots.
Probably most telling, though, was a brief stretch when UT Martin had three chances to cut what was a 10-point deficit (27-17) in half or more. The Skyhawks failed to capitalize, however, and missing two 3-pointers before ultimately turning the ball over on all three possessions.
“That was really a key time,” McMillan agreed.
A Taylor Hall 3-pointer still had UTM within 32-22 with 4:15 left in the opening half and Newsome’s twin free throws made it 41-31 at the half.
The Blue Devils’ size and strength was especially telling over the final 20 minutes, however.
“The game was called (officiated) exactly how I expected to be, especially in the second half when their size and strength just wore us down. You’re not going to get tightly-called games in the tournament and, if you don’t, the bigger and stronger team is usually going to take its toll on the other one,” the UT Martin skipper continued.
“We got about every shot we wanted in the first half, but when they went to the matchup zone in the second half, they made the floor a lot smaller with their size.
“And we you can spread people out like that, you have to have a post presence to make them pay. We didn’t have that against their size.”
Butler had 15 points — extending her streak of scoring in double figures in every game on the collegiate level — to lead UT Martin. Hall pitched in with 10.
Wooden Award finalist Jasmine Thomas scored 18 markers to lead five players for a balanced Duke squad that had eight or more points.

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