UTM gets last lead over ’Cats

UTM gets last lead over ’Cats

Posted: Friday, December 16, 2011 12:03 pm

In a game that featured 30 lead changes and eight ties, UT Martin men prevailed in the end with an 86-83 win over Bethel Tuesday night at theElam Center.
A total of 10 players contributed to UT Martin’s scoring attack as the Skyhawks shot 49.2 percent from the field (32-for-65). For the final 10:51 of the contest, no team led by more than one possession, but the Skyhawks (3-9) made enough plays down the stretch to extend their winning streak over Bethel to 12 games.
“We were able to keep fighting and we made a lot of shots in the second half,” UT Martin head coach Jason James said. “For us to win the way we did is good for our young team. We needed confidence and needed to show that we can still win basketball games and we showed that tonight.”
Freshman Myles Taylor set a new career-high in points for the second straight game, pouring in 22 points in 18 minutes. He scored 16 points in the first 10:16 of the game — including seven straight in a span of 2:34 in the first half.
Mike Liabo racked up 15 points, including a go-ahead jumper with 31 seconds remaining that gave UT Martin the lead for good. Jeremy Washington was the third Skyhawk to crack double-figures, scoring 10 points while handing out a game-high four assists.
Dane Smith (nine points, seven rebounds, three steals), Gary Love (eight points in eight minutes) and Omari Minor (a pair of free throws in the final 11 seconds) played big roles.
For Bethel (9-4), Jarvis Palmer recorded a game-high 25 points, while Caleb Hardy added 15 points and eight rebounds. George Coleman and Erin Harris chipped in with 11 points apiece for the Wildcats, who entered the game as the NAIA’s top scoring squad. Bethel made its first seven shots of the game on the way to a 71.4 percent (20-for-28) shooting half but only led 48-46.
Taylor accounted for nine of the team’s first 13 points, as back-to-back buckets by Washington and Taylor capped off a 7-2 run to give the Skyhawks a 20-16 lead at the 12:18 mark of the first half. UT Martin would hold a lead for the next 2:07 until a 3-pointer by Palmer put Bethel ahead 23-22 with 10:11 to go in the first half.
After a layup by Washington tilted the score back in UT Martin’s favor with just over eight minutes left in the first half, Bethel went on a 7-1 run to take a 34-29 lead. Liabo answered with two straight baskets, and after a Smith layup tied the game at 36-all, the Wildcats scored 10 of the next 12 points to lead 46-38.
The Skyhawks were then lifted by the inspired play of Love, who made his season debut. In a span of 44 seconds, he canned a 3-pointer from the left corner, came up with a steal and was a perfect 3-for-3 from the free throw line to carve UT Martin’s deficit to just two at the half.
Bethel began the second half on a 10-3 run to take its biggest lead of the night at 58-49, but Taylor halted the streak with an old-fashioned three-point play with 15:25 remaining.
UT Martin kept whittling away at the Wildcat lead, eventually tying the game at 64-all after a 3-pointer by Liabo completed a 10-3 run. Almost two minutes later, the Skyhawks took their first lead of the second half on a jumper by Washington at the 8:34 mark.
The game was tied at 75-all with 5:11 to go, setting up the dramatic final minutes. The Skyhawks went ahead on a pair of Eli York free throws at the 4:12 mark, but Sylvester Sipp made a 3-pointer on Bethel’s next possession to put the Wildcats ahead 78-77. A 3-pointer by Troy King then gave UT Martin a brief advantage, but Bethel converted a contested layup on its next possession to knot the score at 80 with 3:06 left.
A jumper by Liabo at the 2:27 mark broke the tie and gave the Skyhawks a two-point lead, but Erin Harris scored three straight points for Bethel put the Wildcats on top 83-82 at the 1:05 mark. Liabo then sank a 10-foot leaner on the right side to vault UT Martin ahead with 31 ticks remaining, and a pair of defensive stands in the final 12 seconds resulted in the Skyhawk victory.
UT Martin will return to the hardwood 1 p.m. Sunday when it hosts IPFW at the Elam Center. Published in The WCP 12.15.11

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