AKRON, Ohio – The University of Tennessee at Martin men’s basketball squad was within a single possession of defending Mid-American Conference champion Akron with less than 15 minutes to go tonight but the Zips’ accuracy from three-point range resulted in a 76-59 Skyhawk loss.
UT Martin (1-3) trailed by 13 points less than nine minutes into the contest but soon rallied and threatened Akron in the early stages of the second half. However, the host Zips (2-0) connected on 15 of their 31 attempts from three-point range (48.4 percent) and the Skyhawks could not record enough defensive stops in the second half.
Matthew Butler and Fatodd Lewis shared the lead in points (18) for UT Martin. Lewis secured 14 of his points after the halftime break – shooting 9-of-12 for the contest – while also corralling seven rebounds for the Skyhawks. Delfincko Bogan posted nine points on a perfect 3-for-3 effort from beyond the three-point arc while also chipping in team-highs of three assists and two steals off the bench.
Akron never trailed in the contest thanks in large part to Daniel Utomi, who tallied 32 points and shot 8-of-11 from three-point land. Malcolm Duvivier added 17 points for the Zips, who are one of just four Division-I programs to win at least 21 games in each of the past 12 seasons.
“Akron was hot and got rolling,” UT Martin head coach Anthony Stewart said. “We didn’t do a good job of defending the three-point line at all tonight. We got off to a slow start – the flow wasn’t where we wanted it to be. In the second half, we started to emphasize playing inside and out and got it down to two points but we could just never get it going down on the defensive end.”
A Butler trifecta got the Skyhawks on the scoreboard at the 18:37 mark of the first half. Akron responded with the next nine points of the contest and eventually claimed a 20-7 lead with 11:23 to go before the half.
Bogan followed with three-pointers on back-to-back trips down the floor to get UT Martin back within striking distance. Another Bogan longball at the 2:11 mark shaved the Skyhawk deficit to 30-24.
Layups by Dominique Williams and Lewis kept the Zip advantage at six points (34-28) at the halftime intermission.
Bogan’s nine points in nine minutes helped carry UT Martin in the first half as the Skyhawks nailed 45.5 percent (5-for-11) of their three-point tries. Utomi was responsible for a game-high 10 points for Akron, who shot 43.8 percent (7-of-16) from three-point range.
Butler swished a straightaway three-pointer only 12 seconds into the second half to cut the Zip lead to 34-31. Another Butler mid-range jumper at the 16:51 mark made the score 39-37 and moments later, jumpers by Jailen Gill and Williams kept UT Martin close at 44-41 with 14:32 left on the clock.
Back-to-back Akron three-pointers quickly extended the Zip lead out to nine points. Lewis then sank three layups in the span of 1:34 and as a result, the Skyhawks trailed by a slim 52-47 margin with 10:44 left to play.
However, Akron accounted for an 11-0 run in less than two minutes and UT Martin would not get any closer than 11 points the rest of the way.
The Skyhawks round out their participation in the Global Sports Challenge on Wednesday, Nov. 22 when they go back on the road to take on the Southern Jaguars out of the Southwestern Athletic Conference. Tipoff time from Baton Rouge, La. is set for 7 p.m.