MARTIN, Tenn. – The Memphis trio of Matthew Butler, Fatodd Lewis and Parrish Hewitt pitched in big scoring performances to help the University of Tennessee at Martin men’s basketball team to its first victory of the young 2017-18 campaign, a 74-57 decision over North Carolina Central.
Butler generated team-highs of 16 points and five assists for UT Martin (1-2) while Lewis posted his first career double-double of 15 points and 11 rebounds in only 18 minutes off the bench. Playing in just his third career game, Hewitt showed flashes of brilliance with 13 points, six rebounds and two steals for the Skyhawks, who led by as many as 34 points tonight and led for 36:44 of clock time.
The defending Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference champion Eagles were held to just 39 percent shooting (23-of-59) while committing 16 turnovers tonight. Raasean Davis corralled team-highs of 16 points and seven rebounds while Pablo Rivas chalked up 12 points off the bench for NC Central (0-3).
“We really defended the ball tonight,” UT Martin head coach Anthony Stewart said. “Our defense is progressively getting better and our rebounding is starting to get better in each game. We are projected in the right direction because our defense is going to carry us this year.”
Darius Thompson sank a pair of three-pointers in the opening four minutes of the contest to help UT Martin claim an early advantage. The Eagles took a 14-13 lead at the 15:08 mark of the first half but that was the last time they would hold an advantage as the Skyhawk trio of Jailen Gill (dunk), Butler (three-pointer) and Delfincko Bogan (three-pointer) spurred an 8-0 run over a span of 1:28.
UT Martin held NC Central without a field goal for 4:44, extending its lead out to double-digits in the process. Hewitt was on the receiving end of an alley-oop dunk and followed with another bucket on a strong take to the hoop to result in a 37-20 Skyhawk edge at the final media timeout of the first half.
A free throw by Dominique Williams with just under two minutes to go before the break gave UT Martin a 20-point lead before the Skyhawks settled for a 42-24 halftime advantage.
Lewis’ nine points in eight minutes paced UT Martin at the half, as the Skyhawks connected on 41.7 percent (5-for-12) of their attempts from three-point range. Davis had nine points for a NC Central squad that shot just 18.2 percent (2-of-11) from beyond the three-point arc in the opening 20 minutes.
UT Martin began the second half with 12 unanswered points, capped off by a Thompson dunk at the 16:15 mark that extended the Skyhawk lead out to 30 points (54-24).
Hewitt then took over once again, pumping in eight straight points for UT Martin to give the Skyhawks their biggest advantage of the evening at 64-30 with 10:56 left to play.
The Eagles responded with a 7-0 surge until Butler canned an 18-foot jumper at the 8:47 mark. NC Central came right back with another extended run – this time scoring nine straight points – to close within 20 points before Lewis knocked down a floater in the paint to halt the Eagle momentum.
Lewis scored four straight points at the charity stripe to cap off a 9-of-11 effort from the free throw line as UT Martin held on for the win. NC Central was able to score the final eight points of the contest but it was too late as the Skyhawks claimed their ninth consecutive win in the Kathleen and Tom Elam Center.
UT Martin heads back on the road for its next two games, beginning with a Saturday, Nov. 18 matchup at Akron out of the Mid-American Conference. Tipoff time from James A. Rhodes Arena is scheduled for 6 p.m. CST.