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Skyhawks not helped by Racers’ bad touch

Skyhawks not helped by Racers’ bad touch
Messenger Sports
UT Martin turned off a big part of Murray State offense all night.
Unfortunately for the Skyhawks, however, they could never get their own offense turned on.
UTM limited the No. 10-ranked Racers to 65 points, their second-lowest of the season and lowest in 11 Ohio Valley Conference games, but shot a pitiful 34.8 percent at the other end in a hard-fought but disappointing 65-58 loss.
“Tonight, I thought we were pretty good,” UTM head coach Jason James said. “We competed. We were guarding, flying around and trying to do all the things on the defensive end. That’s what our program has to be about. It starts with competing every night, playing hard, guarding and scoring. Tonight, we did those things in that order, but we just couldn’t score enough when we needed to.”
The Racers survived to remain the nation’s only undefeated Division I team, improving to 23-0 overall and 11-0 in the conference.
UTM, meanwhile, again fell just short of its first league win, dropping to 0-12 and 3-22 overall.
The Skyhawks did a lot of things right, maybe enough to win.
UT Martin had a season-high 47 rebounds to Murray State’s 39 and outscored the Racers 23-15 in second-chance points. Murray State was an unsightly 3-of-17 on 3-point shots and 25-of-59 on total field goals.
Isaiah Canaan and Donte Poole, who have ignited many past Racer rallies with 3-point shots, were both scoreless from behind the arc. Canaan, shut down by Omari Minor much of the game, missed four times and Poole misfired on three tries.
“We wanted to take the ball out of (Isaiah’s) hands, and if not that, then make everything tough for him and I thought we did that,” James said. “We know he makes them go and is super special in generating their offense, and Omari did a heck of a job on him.”
But, the Skyhawks ultimately did too many things wrong.
Despite being close in turnovers with 13 against and 11 on MSU, UT Martin was outscored 11-3 off turnovers, while the Racers overcame their rebounding deficit by outdoing the Skyhawks 38-30 in the paint. And, Murray State’s bench dominated with 24 points to just eight for UTM.
It was UT Martin’s poor shooting that made the difference, though.
As bad as Murray State was, UTM was even worse. The Skyhawks were 2-of-15 on 3-point baskets and just 23-of-66 overall, Mike Liabo epitomizing the team’s woes by going 1-of-8 on threes and 2-of-17 on all shots.
“We talk about getting stops in a row, but when we get those, we have to be able to score on the other end,” James said. “Tonight, we didn’t do that. They were able to push us out of some stuff for three, four or five possessions, and that’s what the game came down to. Overall, we were pretty good defensively, but when you get stops, you have to be able to score on the other end. We didn’t do that consistently.”
Poor shooting kept UT Martin from ever making a game-breaking run. The game was tied five times with four lead changes, but UTM’s largest lead was only four points, that coming when Myles Taylor gave the Skyhawks a 13-9 advantage at 13:51 of the first half.
That basket capped a 10-0 UTM run after Murray State had jumped out to a 9-3 lead. Troy King’s basket with 7:42 tied it for the fifth and final time at 19-all as Murray State closed the half by doubling the Skyhawks 18-9 for a 37-28 halftime advantage.
Dane Smith, UTM’s best player of the night with 24 points and 11 rebounds for his second career double-double, hit a layup at 14:12 of the first half to get the Skyhawks within 41-36.
Murray State followed with eight straight points for a 49-36 lead, and UTM could only get as close as six points the rest of the way. Published in The Messenger 2.6.12