NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The University of Tennessee at Martin women’s basketball team flexed its defensive muscles against the reigning Ohio Valley Conference Player of the Year while outscoring No. 5 seeded Austin Peay by 17 in the second half to tally a 59-43 victory in the OVC Basketball Championship quarterfinals on Thursday afternoon.
The Skyhawks (12-18) improved to 13-3 in the OVC Basketball Championship since 2010 after posting its best defensive output of the season, holding Austin Peay to just 43 points which ranked as a season-low for UT Martin. The low scoring affair also marked the second-lowest combined scoring total in OVC Basketball Championship history with just 102 combined points.
Despite shooting just 38 percent from the floor, UT Martin overcame an eight-point first quarter by outscoring Austin Peay by 20 points over the final three quarters of play to come away with the victory. After getting crushed on the boards in the two prior contests against the Govs, the Skyhawks narrowly won the battle of the boards 41-37 while limiting the Govs to just 29.3 percent from the floor.
Three Skyhawks scored in double figures, led by the play of Emanye Robertson who tallied 17 points and a career-high nine rebounds. Junior Janekia Mason also posted a big game in a battle of low-post threats, tallying 14 points and seven rebounds in the contests to notch her ninth consecutive game in double figures. Sophomore Myah Taylor also score in double figures, tallying 11 points and five rebounds off the bench.
“I told them before the game it would be about who wants it more because that’s what it basically comes down to this time of year,” said UT Martin head coach Kevin McMillan. “I thought early on we were having a repeat of our game over there, but our effort was still a lot higher. Then in the second half I don’t know who our team was because we were executing and defending better than we have all year. We played ourselves into another game and we will see what we do.”
Austin Peay (14-16) posted three players in double figures, led by newly named OVC Player of the Year Tearra Banks who finished well below her season averages, tallying 10 points and six rebounds in 20 minutes of action. The Govs would be supported with 10 points each from Bri Williams and Brianne Alexander to round out the trifecta.
UT Martin would get off to a slow start, making just one of its first 11 shots before finally finding its second field goal of the contest with just two minutes left in the quarter. While the Skyhawks went through their cold spell, the Governors would lead by as much as six points before ultimately taking a 12-8 lead into the second quarter.
The Skyhawks would go on another three minutes scoring drought in the second quarter which saw the Govs push their advantage out to nine points following a three-pointer in the left corner by Jacey Scott. UT Martin would settle down in the first half’s final minutes as a brief 6-0 run cut the margin down to two points following a back-door layup by Mason. The Skyhawks would ride an 8-1 run into the half, trailing just 23-22 at the break.
UT Martin took its first lead of the game on the opening play of the third quarter on a layup by Robertson to complete the team’s first half comeback attempt. The Skyhawks would stay aggressive riding a 16-1 run dating back to the 3:52 mark of the second quarter to take a 30-23 lead, resulting in a timeout by Austin Peay. After outscoring the Govs by seven in the third quarter - due in large part from eight points by both Mason and Robertson - UT Martin would take a 40-34 advantage into the fourth quarter.
After UT Martin began the fourth quarter on an 8-0 run to push the team’s lead out to 14 points, Austin Peay would respond with a run of its own to trim the margin back down to eight points with just over six minutes to play. With the game still in the balance, the Skyhawks would finish the game on a 9-0 run on the shoulders of Robertson and Ashton Feldhaus to secure a 59-43 victory.
UT Martin will return to action in the OVC Basketball Championship semifinals against No. 1 seed Belmont on Friday, March 3. Tipoff from Municipal Auditorium is scheduled for noon.