MARTIN, Tenn. – Javier Martinez amassed his first career double-double as the University of Tennessee at Martin men’s basketball team opened up an early lead and fended off a Cleveland State comeback in an 85-74 Bluegrass Showcase win at the Kathleen and Tom Elam Center.
Martinez notched new career-highs in points (23) and rebounds (14) this evening, sinking 10 of his 12 field goal attempts. The 6-7, 210-pound senior out of St. Croix, Virgin Islands helped push a Skyhawk team who led by as many as 30 points in the first half before the visiting Vikings got within four points with 2:27 left to play. Martinez followed with four of the next five UT Martin points to help the Skyhawks improve to 3-1 on the season.
“It was a tale of two halves,” UT Martin head coach Anthony Stewart said. “In the first half, we played nearly mistake-free basketball, shot it very well and I was very pleased with our defense. In the second half, we didn’t play well with the lead and got lackadaisical. But we gathered ourselves, showed some composure and resolve and got the win.”
Kedar Edwards scored 17 points and tied a career-high with seven assists for the Skyhawks while Jacolby Mobley (16 points) and Fatodd Lewis (10 points) each scored double-digits for UT Martin. Matthew Butler also compiled nine points, a career-high seven rebounds and four assists for the Skyhawks, who shot 53.7 percent (29-of-54) from the field.
Cleveland State (1-2) was led by Rob Edwards’ 22 points – 16 of which came in the final 20 minutes. Bobby Word (14 points), Derek Sloan (10 points) and Jibri Blount (11 rebounds) also came through with big performances for the Vikings.
UT Martin found itself down by an 8-4 margin early but the Skyhawks clamped down on defense and changed the course of the game. UT Martin held Cleveland State without a point for a span of 8:17, doubling up the Vikings for a 16-8 lead. Mobley bookended the Skyhawk run with three-pointers before Cleveland State got back on the scoreboard with an old-fashioned three-point play at the 9:23 mark of the first half.
Another lengthy Viking scoring drought resulted in UT Martin’s largest lead of the game. Cleveland State did not score for a five-minute stretch while a tip-in by Martinez capped off a 39-5 Skyhawk run and provided UT Martin with a 43-13 advantage with less than three minutes to go in the first half.
The Vikings got within 24 points before a Malik Pugh trifecta from the right wing gave the Skyhawks a 50-23 halftime advantage.
Martinez nearly had a double-double (13 points, nine rebounds) in the first half alone while Mobley dialed up 13 points for UT Martin, who connected on 63 percent (17-for-27) of its shot attempts and outrebounded the Vikings by a 24-9 margin.
UT Martin’s lead reached 28 points (55-27) at the 16:19 mark of the second half but Cleveland State went on a 14-2 run to make the score 57-41. Lewis, Edwards and Kahari Beaufort each scored over the next three minutes for the Skyhawks as they maintained a 17-point advantage.
The Vikings followed with 12 of the next 16 points to close within single-digits at 66-57. UT Martin quickly pushed its lead back out to 11 points thanks to a layup by Martinez but another Cleveland State run – this time a 9-2 spurt – trimmed the Skyhawk lead to 70-66 with 2:27 to go.
Martinez then came through with an offensive rebound and tip-in on UT Martin’s next possession and after a Mobley free throw, Martinez converted a tough contested layup to extend the Skyhawk advantage out to 75-66 with 1:19 left to play.
Cleveland State would not get any closer than six points the rest of the way, as Mobley (two free throws), Chandler Rowe (two free throws) and Edwards (two dunks) closed out UT Martin’s victory.
The Skyhawks play their final three games of the Bluegrass Showcase multi-team event on the road next week, as UT Martin travels to Canisius (Nov. 21), Duquesne (Nov. 23) and current No. 2 Kentucky (Nov. 25) next week.