MARTIN, Tenn. – Four University of Tennessee at Martin starters scored in double-figures this evening as the Skyhawk men’s basketball team outlasted Blue Mountain College, 84-76, at the Kathleen and Tom Elam Center.
UT Martin (4-8) led by as many as 17 points tonight but was ahead by just four points with 2:37 remaining. The Skyhawks then made the winning plays down the stretch, scoring on three of their next four possessions on their way to the victory.
Fatodd Lewis accounted for his fourth double-double of the season for UT Martin, delivering 25 points and 11 rebounds to go along with a game-high five assists and career-best six steals. Matthew Butler (20 points), Terrence Parker (career-high 13 points) and Darius Thompson (12 points) also helped steady a Skyhawk offense that generated a distinct 56-16 advantage in points in the paint.
Blue Mountain College (4-6) was led by Harrison Fancher’s 25 points. The Toppers also received big scoring nights out of Jaylon Bardley (21 points), Quan Cothron (11 points) and Dominic Hudson (11 points) as the NAIA opponent out of Blue Mountain, Miss. canned 14 three-pointers but committed 22 turnovers.
“You have to be focused, no matter who you are playing,” UT Martin head coach Anthony Stewart said. “On any night, somebody can come in and give their best effort. We kept seeing that tonight – Blue Mountain came in here with nothing to lose and played really well. There were some bright spots tonight – we knew coming in that we had the height and size advantage. We are still a work in progress – we have to execute a lot better in our halfcourt offense and we have to tighten up all areas of our matchup zone.”
Parker scored the first points of the game on a fast break layup at the 18:40 mark. Less than two minutes later, a Butler trey put the Skyhawks on top by a 7-5 margin. However, the Toppers dialed up seven of the next nine points of the contest to claim a 12-9 lead.
A brief 6-0 UT Martin spurt resulted in a 20-18 Skyhawk lead with just under 11 minutes to go before the halftime break. Blue Mountain College came back to take a three-point advantage midway through the first half but that would ultimately be the last lead the visitors would hold.
Lewis secured the last five points during a 7-0 Skyhawk run that put UT Martin on top by a 27-23 margin. The Skyhawks added another 10-0 run in the waning stages of the first half before settling for a 49-39 lead at the half.
UT Martin connected on 52.6 percent (20-for-38) of its field goal attempts in the first half, led by Lewis (17 points) and Butler (11). Fancher had 18 points to lead all scorers at the intermission as the Toppers sank 10 trifectas in the opening 20 minutes.
Thompson poured in the first five Skyhawk points of the second half but Blue Mountain whittled its deficit to just five points (56-51) with 14:51 left to play.
Parker responded with back-to-back buckets and UT Martin turned up the heat defensively, holding the Toppers scoreless for a stretch of 6:36. The defensive intensity allowed the Skyhawks to build up a 17-point lead after a Butler jumper in the paint made the score 71-54 with eight minutes to go.
The Toppers had one last run in them, as they scored 13 unanswered points in a 3:09 span to creep within four points with 2:37 on the clock. Butler (three-pointer), Lewis (mid-range jumper) and Jailen Gill (dunk) then followed with big buckets to help UT Martin avoid the upset. Kahari Beaufort calmly sank a pair of clutch free throws with 15 seconds left to seal the victory.
The Skyhawks wrap up nonconference play on Friday, Dec. 22 when they play host to Arkansas-Pine Bluff. Tipoff from the Elam Center is scheduled for 7 p.m.