Murray State gets lethal dose of UTM

Murray State gets lethal dose of UTM
By MIKE HUTCHENS
Messenger Sports Editor
NASHVILLE — UT Martin opponents are essentially forced to pick their poison.
Most in the Ohio Valley Conference have met their demise either way.
A chosen dose of Jaclissa Haislip, Taylor Hall and the Skyhawks potent perimeter game killed Murray State’s chances of earning a spot in the OVC Women’s Tournament championship game Friday as UTM rolled to a 102-77 triumph and its own berth in the title tilt.
Top-seed UT Martin went on to claim its second consecutive league crown and spot in the NCAA Tournament by beating No. 3 Tennessee Tech 82-65 In Saturday’s OVC finals for its 14th consecutive victory.
The Skyhawks (23-8), who lost to nationally-ranked Duke in their first-ever appearance in the ‘Big Dance’ a year ago, won’t discover their first-round opponent this year until a week from today when the NCAA unveils its 64-team bracket.
UTM, which ranks No. 2 in the nation in made 3-pointers but also forces foes to deal with the cat-quick scoring tandem of widely-decorated guards Jasmine Newsome and Heather Butler, put away the Lady Racers Friday with its devastating outside shooting that produced 14 3-pointers and tied the record for the second-most points in a tournament game.
Haislip and Hall accounted for 11 of those triples between them — nine in the first half — to put the Skyhawks on the fast track to the championship game.
“I think we were in shock early that somebody would zone us,” said third-year UT Martin coach Kevin McMillan, whose team largely faces man defenses to guard against its 3-point game that still is the best in school history numbers-wise. “It took us a couple of possessions to get comfortable. After Jaclissa made a couple, we did, though.”
“We have great shooters, and we like to shoot the 3. We got a lot of the shots we wanted. Jaclissa and Taylor got lost in their zone some, and we got some other good looks from the perimeter off offensive rebounds.”
Haislip and Hall combined to shoot 9-of-13 from outside the circle in the first half when the Skyhawks built a 45-33 lead and UTM ended up shooting far-better from 3-point land (14-of-28 — 50 percent) than it did from 2-point range (18-of-44 — 40.9 percent) for the game.
That UT Martin won by such a comfortable margin without a particular standout game from either Newsome — the OVC Player of the Year, or Butler, the nation’s fifth-leading scorer — was equally noteworthy.
Despite combining to shoot just 12-of-37 from the field, the dynamic duo both finished with double-doubles — Newsome with 20 points and 11 assists and Butler with 23 points and 11 rebounds.
“When the focus is on those two, you have to have others step up. We did,” McMillan added. “And when you look at the fact they both finished with more than 20 points apiece and a double-double, it speaks of the lofty unrealistic expectations that you have of those two.”
Butler did not make a field goal in the first half and had just two points, but made 12-of-13 foul shots in all and ended up the game’s top rebounder despite being the shortest player on her team.
“Heather Butler will just do what she has to do to help the team,” her coach said.
Haislip who ended up sinking 6-of-11 triples, matched Butler’s game-high point total and was second in rebounding with eight. Hall missed just one of her six trifecta attempts and gave the Skyhawks a third double-figure scorer with 15.
Murray State finished the year at 13-18.
Sports editor Mike Hutchens can be contacted by e-mail at mhutch@ucmessenger.com.
Published in The Messenger 3.5.12

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