MARTIN, Tenn. – The University of Tennessee at Martin women’s basketball team picked up its eighth win of the season behind a strong second half, defeating Ohio Valley Conference foe Eastern Kentucky 66-56 on Saturday evening.
The Skyhawks (7-17, 4-7 OVC) picked up their third win in the last four contests in a game which featured 17 lead changes despite poor shooting percentages from either team. With both teams shooting under 40 percent from the floor, the squads did most of their damage in the paint, combining to score 64 points in the paint.
UT Martin would pick up the hard-fought victory behind a balanced scoring effort, timely free throw shooting and strong post play from Ashton Feldhaus and Janekia Mason. The post duo combined to score 32 points and tally 18 rebounds – with Feldhaus leading all scorers with 18 points while Mason chipped in 14 points of her own. The duo was joined in double figures by freshman guard Kendall Spray who tallied 11 points. As a whole, the Skyhawks shot 20-of-24 from the free throw line – including 13 made free throws in the fourth quarter alone.
“I thought it was an ugly game because of the way Eastern Kentucky plays such hard defense, which in turn makes game look that way,” said UT Martin head coach Kevin McMillan. “I think it took our kids some time to get used to that but we came out in the third quarter and Janekia changed the tone of the game. We missed some big free throws early when I thought we needed to hit them, but down the stretch we were able to knock them down and hold on late. Hopefully a light switch clicked on with this game.”
Eastern Kentucky (8-15, 5-5 OVC) dropped its fourth game in the last five despite placing three players in double figures and winning the coveted battle of the boards. Preseason OVC Player of the Year Jalen O’Bannon tallied 12 points and eight rebounds while Alexus Cooper tallied 12 points and nine rebounds of her own. Junior forward Madison Wood rounded out the trio in double figures with 10 points and seven boards.
The game would prove to play close through the first half with 14 lead changes while seeing the game reach four ties. UT Martin would hold a lead as high as four points in the first period while Eastern Kentucky countered back by taking a three-point lead of its own just two minutes later. At the end of the first quarter, the Colonels would hold a narrow 15-14 advantage.
Things would play out similarly in the second quarter as the squads exchanged leads eight times alone in the period. The Skyhawks would quickly take a lead on the first possession of the second quarter before quickly watching the lead switch hands once again on the alternating possession. Neither team would hold a lead greater than two points in the quarter before Eastern Kentucky took a 27-25 advantage into the break.
UT Martin would look to get some separation in the early minutes of the third quarter. The Skyhawks would string together a 20-4 lead over a six-minute segment to take a 12-point lead late into the third. With the strong play by the Skyhawks, the home team would take a 47-38 advantage into the fourth quarter.
Eastern Kentucky would keep the game interesting down the stretch to trim the deficit to as close as two points in the final minutes. Despite the late rally by the Colonels, the Skyhawks would hang tight down the stretch by sinking 13 free throws to secure the 66-56 home victory.
UT Martin will close out the homestand with a matchup against Eastern Illinois on Wednesday, Feb. 8. Tipoff from the Elam Center is scheduled for 6 p.m.