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UTM loss is similar to others

UTM loss is similar to others
Messenger Sports Editor
It was appropriate enough that UT Martin’s 12th straight loss came on Groundhog Day.
Essentially following the same script that has now seen them lose 11 consecutive Ohio Valley Conference games, the Skyhawks fell to visiting Jacksonville State 85-74 Thursday night.
UTM, which last won on Dec. 13 against Bethel and next faces regional rival Murray State — the nation’s only remaining undefeated team and ranked No. 9 in the country — played the Gamecocks on virtually even terms most of the night Thursday.
But a pair of 8-0 Jacksonville mini-runs in the second half — both fueled by Skyhawk turnovers — basically sealed another loss and was a microcosm of UTM’s season.
“It was a lot like many of the others,” Skyhawk head coach Jason James said afterward. “In order to be successful, you have to walk on the floor and play to win the whole game. We’ve had these sort of lapses so many times, and it’s very frustrating because every day we work on things that we’re failing in when it comes game time.
“The little things, like during the two 8-0 runs, we quit doing the things we practiced on and are coached to do. It might just have been a couple of minutes, but you do that a once or twice and you dig yourself a hole you can’t get out of. We just tried to make plays that simply weren’t there at times.”
UT Martin (3-21, 0-11) lost despite shooting 62 percent from the field and 85 percent from the foul line.
The Skyhawks’ last lead came with 15:29 to play at 44-42 on Dan Smith’s layup.
Jacksonville (10-15, 5-6) then made two foul shots on consecutive possessions to take a lead it would not lose and converted UTM floor mistakes into a dunk by Ronnie Boggs and a Boggs’ steal into Darion Rackley’s layup to go up 50-44.
Later, after the Skyhawks had cut the difference to 52-50 on a Corderio Maclin tip-in with 12:32 to go, the Gamecocks again flurried with Brian Williams hitting a jumper and Rackley dunking again following turnovers to stretch the gap to double digits (60-50).
UTM would get no closer than four, that at 64-60 on Chris Richardson’s 3-pointer with 6:43 showing.
The visitors, though, who shot 68 percent from the field in the second half themselves and 56 percent for the game, blew out to as much as a 13-point lead in the final minute.
Freshman Myles Taylor had 16 points — 14 in the first half — before fouling out to lead the Skyhawks. Mike Liabo added 15 and Smith 14.
To his credit, James refused to use the legitimate alibi of losing his top returning player and floor leader, Terence Smith, to a health issue just before the start of the year.
Smith led UT Martin in starts, minutes played and assists as a freshman a year ago, scoring in double figures 21 times while hitting at a 11.3 ppg clip. He has been cleared to practice, but not play, and has been redshirted.
“That’s not who we are,” the coach stated emphatically, when asked if he’d accept Smith’s absence as the reason for his team’s current state. “Our kids are good enough to win. We’ve been in games where we had a chance to win and tonight was another instance of that.
“We beat a UAB team on their homecourt and they’re winning games in a good league, so we’re obviously capable. Winning games and just being in them are two different things, though.”
Saturday’s women’s game vs. Murray will tip off at 4 p.m., with the men’s contest to follow at 6.
Sports editor Mike Hutchens can be contacted by e-mail at Published in The Messenger 2.3.12

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