By KEVIN WEAKS
Louisville scored 22 points within the game’s first eight minutes to put UT Martin in a deep hole. Two big offensive possessions late in the game made sure the Skyhawks wouldn’t climb out.
The Cardinals, unbeaten and ranked No. 6 in the nation coming in, jumped out to a 22-6 lead early in the game, led by as many as 26 points to begin the second half and then held off a UTM rally to get out of Skyhawk Arena with a 79-61 win in front of 3,223 fans Monday night.
“The game was over in the first six minutes,” UTM head coach Kevin McMillan said. “We couldn’t do the things to get over the hump. But, the game had to be manageable in the first half, and we let it get out of control. Hats off to our kids to coming back and making it more than respectable.”
Playing their third Top 10 opponent in 10 days and in action for the first time since returning from Hawaii, where defending national champion Baylor and current No. 1 Stanford were Skyhawk opponents, UTM was not sharp early and never really got on track in the first half.
UT Martin hit only 31 percent of its field goal tries (9-of-29) compared to Louisville’s 61 percent (17-of-28) and was out-rebounded 23-9 over the first 20 minutes.
“Do you look it as we just competed with the No. 6 team in the country and it’s an 11-point game with two minutes to play? Or, do you look at it as we got destroyed on the boards and missed open shots that could’ve given us a chance?” McMillan said. “We look at it as we got destroyed on the boards and missed open shots because we feel like we have the players who can play at the next level. But, until we prove it, it’s just ‘we think.’”
The Cardinals were quick to take advantage, running off 13 straight points for an 18-4 lead at 14:06 and then continuing to add to the margin the rest of the way.
Louisville twice led by 22 points on some late jumpers by Bria Smith and Monique Reid.
Smith and Reid were among five Louisville players in double figures, Smith topping the balanced attack with 16 and Reid adding 10. Shoni Schimmel also scored 16, Megan Deines added 15 and Sara Hammond finished with 14.
Able to knock down mid-range jumpers to spread out the UTM defense and then go inside with a strong, physical back line, Louisville hit 31-of-56 field goals for the game.
The Cardinals twice pushed the lead to 26 points in the second half, the second time (54-28) coming with 14:21 to play in the game.
Jasmine Newsome scored nine points, Cortrice Golden added six points, Katie Schubert and Megan White each hit a 3-pointer and Rickiesha Bryant hit a pair of layups as the Skyhawks trimmed the deficit to 11 points on three occasions as part of a 33-18 run.
But, Newsome’s layup that got UTM within 72-61 with 3:01 to play was the last gasp for the Skyhawks, who attempted only two more shots the rest of the way. Reid scored after Louisville grabbed back possession following a blocked shot and then Schimmel hit a 3-pointer to stop UTM’s comeback bid.
Heather Butler led all players with 17 points, and Newsome finished with 16. White had nine points on three triples, and Golden scored eight points and grabbed five rebounds in just 11 minutes of action.
Published in The Messenger 11.27.12