January 7, 2017

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The University of Tennessee at Martin women’s basketball team dropped its third consecutive Ohio Valley Conference matchup while pushing its winless road streak to eight games with an 85-80 overtime loss at Tennessee State on Saturday evening.

The Skyhawks (4-13, 1-3 OVC) continued a slide which ranks as the team’s longest conference losing streak since the 2009-10 season with their third consecutive league defeat.  The game also served as UT Martin’s first overtime contest since squaring off against Tennessee State in the OVC Tournament championship in 2015.  

The contest featured 13 lead changes while seeing the score tied seven times. In a sloppy game of sorts, each team tallied 28 turnovers to combined for 56 total. Tennessee State dominated the battle of the paint by outscoring UT Martin 50-18 in the post while tallying 21 second chance points.

UT Martin was led by freshman Kendall Spray who tossed in a game-high 29 points – including seven three-pointers - while shattering her previous career high. The trio of Myah Taylor (13 points, eight rebounds), Ansley Eubank (12 points, nine rebounds) and Emanye Robertson (12 points, seven assists) also scored in double figures for the Skyhawks.

“All I want to see is our kids improve and I think we took strides in getting better but we still made too many mistakes to win the game,” said UT Martin head coach Kevin McMillan. “We got down but we didn’t quit. We have to get better at executing and cut down our mental lapses. This was almost a game where nobody really wanted to win when you consider all of the runs by both teams. There were stretches where we played good enough to win, but also parts where we didn’t deserve it. We just aren’t ready to close games out. We are playing hard but we just aren’t ready to get over the hump yet.”

Tennessee State (6-7, 1-2 OVC) picked up its first conference win of the season after shooting 43 percent from the field and boasting four players in double figures – including three with 20 points or more. The Lady Tigers were led by Tia Wooten who tallied 21 points and eight rebounds while I’mani Davis and Kaliya Griffin each tossed in 20 points each. Jayda Johnson joined in the action by tallying a double-double with 14 points and 13 rebounds.

The Skyhawks would open the game on a 5-0 run behind a pair of buckets by Spray to get the game started. After holding the slim lead, Tennessee State would respond later in the quarter by stringing together a 16-3 run to close out the period. Griffin would play a big part in the stretch which included a 9-0 run by chipping in eight points of her own. After one quarter of play, Tennessee State would hold a 16-8 advantage.

The second quarter would see Tennessee State push its lead out to as high as 12 points following a tip-in by Wooten nearly three minutes into the period. After watching both teams post miniature runs through the quarter which saw the score fluctuate, UT Martin would finish the first half on a 5-0 run behind a layup by Emily Eubank and a three-pointer by Ashton Feldhaus just before the buzzer. Despite the run, the Lady Tigers would hold a 31-25 lead at the break.

UT Martin would come out of the break as the aggressors looking to not only overcome the team’s deficit but take a lead of its own. The score would stay close in the opening minutes with the Skyhawks holding a slim lead before handing it right back to the Lady Tigers. With the score tied at 39 points apiece, UT Martin would string together a 17-1 run of its own to push the team’s lead out to 14 points late in the third quarter. During the run the guard duo of Spray and Robertson would both toss in eight points each to outscore Tennessee State 29-11 in the third and take a 54-42 into the final quarter of play.

The script would flip in the fourth quarter as Tennessee State turned on the home court advantage with a full court press of its own to keep the turnover numbers rising and key the team’s comeback. The Lady Tigers would quickly wipe away the team’s 12-point deficit in just four minutes as a layup by Johnson would cap TSU’s comeback attempt and give the squad a one-point advantage. Down the stretch TSU would push its lead out to a high as three points on a pair of occasions before a four-point play by Spray with 23 seconds left in the contest gave UT Martin a brief one-point advantage. Tennessee State would answer the deficit on the team’s final possession as Griffin sank a free throw to force overtime with the score tied at 72.

With the game back to a blank slate, Tennessee State would go to work in the overtime period. A quick 6-0 run by the Lady Tigers would put the Skyhawks on their heels. Despite the team’s mixture of runs throughout the game, the Skyhawks would trim the margin to as close as two points in the overtime period before ultimately dropping the road contest 85-80.

UT Martin will happily return to the comforts of the Elam Center for the team’s next contest against OVC foe Southeast Missouri on Saturday, Jan. 14. Tipoff is scheduled for 4 p.m.

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