February 15, 2018

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MARTIN, Tenn. –
The University of Tennessee at Martin women’s basketball team remained resilient down the stretch to thwart off a late comeback attempt by Ohio Valley Conference rival SIUE on Thursday evening to pull out a 72-64 victory in front of a national television audience on ESPNU.

The Skyhawks (15-12, 11-4 OVC) pushed its season-long winning streak out to seven games while remaining in the running for a top-two seed in the upcoming OVC Basketball Championship. UT Martin would hold an advantage as large as 13 points in the contest and lead for nearly 34 minutes despite SIUE tying the margin twice in the fourth quarter of play. Needing strong play down the stretch, the Skyhawks converted from the line for six consecutive free throws to seal the game.  

UT Martin posted three players in double figures, including yet another 20-point performance from Kendall Spray with a game-high 26 points. In addition to being the game’s top scorer, Spray broke the program’s single-season three-point record with three trifectas on the day to push her season total up to 107, surpassing Heather Butler’s previous record of 105 set during the 2012-13 campaign. Along with the strong play of Spray, junior Emanye Robertson tallied 11 points while reigning OVC Freshman of the Week Chelsey Perry tallied 10 points, six rebounds and three blocks.

“Tonight was a physical game and they really took it to us all game,” UT Martin head coach Kevin McMillan said. “It was a tough and gritty game which you had to grind out in order to win. There were times when we really needed a big play and Kendall stepped up in a big way. I give our players credit because we found a way to win but we have to clean things up as we get closer to the end of the season. We have to rebound better or it is going to cost us at the worst time.”

SIUE (15-11, 12-3 OVC) battled throughout the contest despite shooting below 40 percent for the contest. Senior Lauren White paced the Cougars with 16 points while Donshel Beck and Nakiah Bell both tallied 10 points on the day.

Both teams would exchange blows in the opening quarter of play which featured five ties in the score along with four lead changes. The Skyhawks would finish the quarter on a 9-5 run after the media timeout midway throughout the period as six players for the home squad got in the scoring column. With the run to end the period, UT Martin took a 20-16 lead into the second.

Spray would open the second quarter on a quick run after Spray opened the period with back-to-back three-pointers to not only tie the program’s single-season three-point record, but set a new mark of her own. After a trio of trifectas by Spray in the quarter, the Skyhawks would go scoreless for almost three minutes of action as the Cougars responded by trimming the margin to six points. Despite the scoreless stretch, UT Martin finished the half strong with back-to-back three-pointers to take a 40-28 advantage into the break.

SIUE came out of the halftime break looking to cut into the margin, beginning the period on a 10-3 run – punctuated by a four-point play by Bell to trim the team’s deficit to four points. The Cougars would ultimately trim the deficit to as close as one point but could not take the lead as the Skyhawks countered with a 7-0 run of their own to push the margin back out to 54-50 after three.

The intensity would increase in the fourth quarter as SIUE tied the game for the first time since the first quarter on an offensive putback by Allie Troeckler with 2:55 to play. With the game knotted up, Spray would answer with an old-fashioned three-point play to give the Skyhawks the lead back on the following possession, one which they would not relinquish. Ultimately, the Skyhawks would convert its final six free throw attempts down the stretch to preserve the victory and move within a game of second place in the league standings.

UT Martin will return to action on Saturday, Feb. 17 when playing host to Eastern Illinois. The Skyhawks will honors its two seniors in a pregame festivity with tipoff scheduled for 4 p.m.

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