|UT Martin women now play waiting game on NCAA spot
|Posted: Tuesday, March 6, 2012 7:00 pm
|By MIKE HUTCHENS
Messenger Sports Editor
NASHVILLE — Now Kevin McMillan and his UT Martin women’s basketball team will play the waiting game.
The coach and the Skyhawks won’t find out who they’ll play in the first round of the NCAA Tournament until Monday when the tourney selection show reveals its 64-team bracket.
McMillan, whose club has won 14 straight and will enter the NCAAs with 23 victories overall, is hoping for better than a 15-seed, which is what UTM was a year ago when it made its first-ever trip to the ‘Big Dance’ and was paired with eighth-ranked and No. 2 seed Duke at Cameron Indoor Stadium.
“Last year, we were a 15-seed. We have a better record and we’re on a better run this year, so maybe we can get it up to a 14,” the coach said after Saturday’s Ohio Valley Conference Tourna-ment championship victory over Tennessee Tech.
“Coming back to Nashville would be nice as a 15. Having a huge crowd like we had tonight would be great if we came here.”
UT Martin’s seeding will be determined by its RPI, which is established by its strength of schedule.
McMillan had toughened up the Skyhawks’ pre-conference slate, but admittedly would like to have some tougher opponents in January after his team had gotten on a roll in its best stretch of the season.
He’s hoping to change that in the future when the OVC will go to two divisions next season and could have some options for non-league games later in the season.
“We’ll try, and we’ve gotta get our schedules lined up, but we aren’t finding any takers to schedule games right now,” McMillan said.
RESPECTING THE GAME — With a chance to set a new Ohio Valley Conference Tournament single-game scoring record in Friday’s semifinals against Murray State, UT Martin head coach Kevin McMillan instead “took a knee.”
The Skyhawks instead settled for tying their own mark of second-most points scored in a game in the event — one point off the record of 103 scored by Tennessee Tech against Youngstown State in 1983.
UTM had a chance to set a new mark when it gained possession in the backcourt after a Perica Glenn blocked shot with 15 seconds to play.
McMillan, though, instructed his troops to not attack the basket, instead milking the remaining time off the clock without attempting a shot or even looking toward the basket.
The coach insisted it was a non-issue afterward.
“We don’t try to score points to break records. That’s not about who we are or what we do,” he said.
“If it happens, it happens, but that’s not our focus.”
UTM had first scored 102 in 1999 when it beat Eastern Kentucky by 15 points in a first-round game.
UNPLANNED TIMEOUT — Friday’s second semifinal between second seed Eastern Illinois and No. 3 Tennessee Tech was halted with around six minutes remaining in the second half due to threatening weather.
Players, fans and patrons were ushered into the basement of the Municipal Auditorium for about 15 minutes while the most severe storm conditions passed.
Both teams were given around 10 minutes to warm up before play was resumed.
EIU was down by seven points at the time of the delay, but rallied to force overtime before being beaten by Tech.
THIS AND THAT — UT Martin is now 12-11 all-time in OVC Tournament play since joining the league in 1992. Current conference members Tennessee Tech (42) and Austin Peay (26), along with Middle Tennessee State (22), which left the league in 2000, are the only programs with more victories than the Skyhawks in the tourney. Tech has won the most championships (9), followed by AP (7) and MTSU (6). … Newsome recorded her fifth double-double of the season and third in the Skyhawks’ past four games with a 26-point, 11-rebound effort in the championship game victory over Tennessee Tech. Butler, the nation’s fifth-leading scorer at just over 23 ppg, had her fourth 30-point game of the year when she erupted for 35 in the finals.
Sports editor Mike Hutchens can be contacted by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. Published in The Messenger 3.6.12