CARBONDALE, Ill. – The University of Tennessee at Martin women’s basketball placed three players in double figures in the team’s regular season opener before ultimately falling at regional rival Southern Illinois 84-72 on Friday night.
The Skyhawks (0-1) shot 41.9 percent from the floor and over 40 percent from beyond the arc, but it was the team’s 21 turnovers and a costly third quarter which proved to be the difference in the game. After falling behind early in the contest, the Skyhawks would charge back and take a lead in the second quarter, but a third which saw the Salukis outscore the visitors by 16 was too much to overcome.
Reigning Ohio Valley Conference Freshman of the Year Kendall Spray paced the Skyhawks with 20 points – including 17 in the first half. Meanwhile the freshman duo of Chelsey Perry and Zaire Hicks joined Spray in double figures with strong collegiate debuts. Perry proved versatile, tallying 16 points, seven rebounds, three steals and two assists in 35 minutes of play. Hicks came off the bench and tallied 12 points, six rebounds and three steals to round out the trio of Skyhawks in double figures.
Southern Illinois (1-0) made the most of its home court advantage by shooting 52.7 percent from the field while knocking down eight three-pointers. Kylie Giebelhausen led all scorers with 25 points while Makenzie Silvey and Nicole Martin added 15 and 10 points, respectively.
Play would start out slow for the Skyhawks as the squad shot just 36 percent from the floor and committed seven early turnovers. With the shortfall, UT Martin would trail by as much as 11 midway through the period. After the big run, the Skyhawks would settle down by ending the quarter on a 5-0 run to trim the margin to 21-16 heading into the second.
The game would hover around the same margin midway through the period with the span reaching as large as seven. Following the media timeout, the Skyhawks would settle down and go on a 9-1 run highlighted by a back-to-back three-pointers by Spray to give UT Martin its first lead at 31-29 with 4:04 to play in the half. Despite outscoring SIU by three points in the second quarter, UT Martin would head into the half trailing 41-39.
Southern Illinois would take command of the contest in the third quarter, outscoring UT Martin 22-6 in the period. After the game saw a two-point margin at the half, the Salukis would open the third quarter on a 17-4 run to take a 15-point lead just six minutes in. With the large run by SIU, UT Martin would look to dig its way out of a 63-47 hole heading into the fourth.
UT Martin would begin to chip away in the fourth quarter to a sizeable margin but the hole would prove to be too deep. The Skyhawks would outscore the Salukis 27-21 as the freshman quartet of Hicks, Perry, Maddie Waldrop and Demi Burdick combined to score 24 of the team’s 27 points. A late push would be too little too late for UT Martin.
The Skyhawks will return home to the Kathleen and Tom Elam Center when they play host to Division II foe Alabama Huntsville on Monday, Nov. 13. Tipoff is scheduled for 6 p.m.