MARTIN, Tenn. – For the sixth time this season, the University of Tennessee at Martin men’s basketball team overcame a double-digit deficit to post a victory, chalking up a 76-72 win over Ohio Valley Conference rival Austin Peay at the Kathleen and Tom Elam Center.
With the win, the Skyhawks (19-11) remain tied with Southeast Missouri at the top of the OVC West standings with a 9-6 league mark. In order to win the OVC West and receive the league’s No. 2 seed in next week’s tournament, UT Martin must win its regular season finale against Murray State to go along with a Southeast Missouri loss to Austin Peay on Saturday. Tonight’s victory also officially sealed a spot in the eight-team OVC Tournament, which will take place on March 1-4 at Municipal Auditorium in Nashville.
The Skyhawks trailed by 10 points with 13:34 left to play tonight but made all the winning plays down the stretch. Mobley tossed in 16 of his game-high 28 points from that point forward, helping carry UT Martin to the finish line in its sixth straight home triumph.
Javier Martinez was responsible for his sixth straight double-double this evening, posting 18 points (on 8-of-11 shooting) and 15 rebounds. It was the 11th double-double of the season for the senior out of St. Croix, Virgin Islands, nine of which have occurred in OVC play.
Kedar Edwards just missed a double-double with 12 points, nine rebounds while Matthew Butler collected 11 points and a game-high six assists for the Skyhawks, who hauled in 23 offensive rebounds on their way to winning the rebounding battle by a 45-27 margin.
Austin Peay (10-19, 6-9 OVC) placed three players in double-figures scoring, led by Josh Robinson’s 21 points. John Murry and Jared Savage scored 18 and 12 points, respectively, for the Governors, who held a 40-36 halftime advantage.
“We made winning plays but more than that, we made winning stops on the defensive end and that was the key,” UT Martin head coach Anthony Stewart said. “I told our five seniors all week that our key word has been ‘believe’ and to leave it all out on the floor. I got after them at halftime because we weren’t winning the 50/50 plays and we were getting outhustled. They didn’t put their heads down – they came out and responded in the second half.”
Mobley got the Skyhawks going early, pumping in the game’s first four points to give UT Martin the early lead. A pair of Martinez free throws at the 16:45 mark resulted in an 8-2 Skyhawk advantage.
Austin Peay came back to even the score at 10-all but Edwards secured back-to-back buckets in the paint to push UT Martin’s lead back out to six points. The Governors answered with a 13-1 run to take their first advantage of the contest, leading by a 25-19 margin with 7:34 to go in the first half.
Butler canned a jumper at the 4:35 mark to tilt the score back in favor of the Skyhawks but Austin Peay claimed a four-point lead at the break.
Martinez already reached a double-double (12 points, 11 rebounds) in the opening half for UT Martin while Murry (12 points) and Savage (10 points) guided the Governors.
The Skyhawks tied the contest at 40-all and 42-all within the first two minutes of the second half but Austin Peay used a 9-0 run to create some separation. The Governor advantage expanded to 10 points after a Robinson three-pointer at the 13:34 mark made the score 56-46.
Mobley then ignited UT Martin’s comeback, scoring an old-fashioned three-point play coming out of the under-12 media timeout. A little under four minutes later, the senior out of Starkville, Miss. sank a three-pointer to pull the Skyhawks within four points at 62-58.
Layups by Chandler Rowe and Martinez resulted in a one-possession game before Mobley dialed up another trifecta to give UT Martin a 67-66 lead with 3:31 to go. Following an Austin Peay free throw, Mobley knocked down another triple to break a 67-67 tie.
Rowe made the score 72-67 after a strong take to the hoop with 1:08 remaining. The Governors scored on their next trip down the floor before Edwards came away with a steal and coast-to-coast dunk to pad the Skyhawk lead to five points. Mobley added two more free throws with seven seconds left to seal the win.
UT Martin wraps up the 2016-17 regular season at home against Murray State on Saturday, Feb. 25. Tipoff is set for approximately 6 p.m., following the conclusion of the Skyhawk women’s game. The game will also serve as Senior Night, as the career accomplishments of UT Martin’s five seniors will be recognized in a brief pregame ceremony.