CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. – The University of Tennessee at Martin women’s basketball team engaged in a heavy-weight fight with system-member school Chattanooga on Saturday afternoon in McKenzie Arena before ultimately falling just short 87-82 in overtime.
The Skyhawks (3-4) battled throughout a contest which saw the game become tied 10 times and featured 18 lead changes – including 15 after halftime. Offense would not be a problem for either team as UT Martin shot 60.4 percent from the field while Chattanooga was equally as impressive at 51.7 percent. UT Martin would lead by as much as 12 points in the contest, along with a five-point lead with 90 seconds left to play in regulation before five turnovers in overtime proved to be the difference in the contest.
Four of the team’s Skyhawk starters scored in double figures led by sophomore guard Kendall Spray with 20 points while tallying seven rebounds and three steals. The forward duo of Janekia Mason and Chelsey Perry both tallied 16 points each while junior guard Emanye Robertson notched 13 points and six assists. Also posting a strong performance off the bench was freshman Maddie Waldrop with seven points and 10 rebounds.
“We deserved to win the game for basically four quarters, but what happened was that it turned into a one to two possession game where you have to make every play and we didn’t make any,” said UT Martin head coach Kevin McMillan. “This was about the best I have seen our kids focus this year but we just couldn’t make the plays to win. We just aren’t ready. It just stings and hurts because you had a game under control against a really good team on their own floor. We deserved to play better than that.”
Chattanooga (6-3) overcame a 12-point second quarter deficit behind three players in double figures. Aryanna Gilbert posted a game-high 25 points along with eight rebounds to lead the Mocs in scoring. Joining her in double figures was Lakelyn Bouldin who tossed in 23 points and sister Keiana Gilbert with 21 points, seven rebounds and six assists.
UT Martin would jump out to an early lead after knocking down five of its opening seven shot of the game, taking a 13-9 lead into the first media break of the contest with just over three minutes left to play in the first quarter. The Skyhawks would maintain their tempo by closing out the period strong by shooting 80 percent in the segment while taking a 21-11 lead into the second.
Neither team would make much progress in either direction to cut or expand the margin through the opening four minutes of the second. With the margin hovering around 10 points for much of the period, the Mocs would finish the second quarter strong with a 7-2 run over the final three minutes of action to trim the margin to as close as three points at the break.
Chattanooga would ultimately complete its comeback attempt for a 12-point deficit in the first half by opening the third on a quick run. The Mocs would knock down a pair of three-pointers in the opening minutes to erase the deficit and take a brief lead. The Skyhawks would respond however in a third quarter which would feature the score tied on five occasions and six lead changes as UT Martin took a 60-57 lead into the fourth.
Both squads continued to pass around the lead in the final quarter of play. The Skyhawks would hold a lead as high as five points with 90 seconds to play but five consecutive points by Keiana Gilbert would tie the game late following a pair of free throws with 10 seconds left in regulation to force overtime.
With the game in overtime for the first time this season, action went back and forth as the lead changed hands five times in the five-minute period. The Skyhawks would lead by as much as three points early following a trifecta by Spray but five critical turnovers down the stretch sealed the team’s fate as Chattanooga escaped with an 87-82 victory.
UT Martin will hit the road again for its next contest with a trip to No. 4 ranked Louisville on Tuesday, Dec. 5. Tipoff from the KFC Yum! Center is scheduled for 6 p.m. CST.