CHARLESTON, Ill. – The University of Tennessee at Martin women’s basketball team took control of the second half, outscoring Ohio Valley Conference foe Eastern Illinois 44-15 in the final 20 minutes of play to lift the squad to a 72-44 road victory.
The Skyhawks (8-11, 4-3 OVC) led for the majority of the game to pick up their second road victory of the season after a strong fourth quarter which saw the guests allow just three points. UT Martin would command nearly every statistical category – including winning the battle of the boards by 20 while placing all nine players in the score column.
Three different Skyhawks eclipsed double figures, including freshman Chelsey Perry’s first career double-double - and the first for UT Martin this season - with 16 points and 11 rebounds. Senior Ashton Feldhaus joined in the action with 13 points while sophomore Kendall Spray tallied 11 points and eight rebounds to cap the trio in double figures. Freshman forward Maddie Waldrop also posted a big game in her second career start, just missing out on a double-double of her own with eight points and nine rebounds.
“I thought they played harder than any team in the league,” said UT Martin head coach Kevin McMillan. “Our kids didn’t know what to think about that in the first half. In the second we began to pound it away and overpowered them down the stretch. Our style of play is to try to grind people down and in the fourth quarter I think we did. We got good minutes off the bench as we will take every win we can get.”
Eastern Illinois (2-16, 1-6 OVC) struggled on the evening, shooting just 28.1 percent from the floor while tallying 19 turnovers. Freshman Taylor Steele would pace the Panthers with 19 points as the team’s lone scorer in double figures.
Both teams would struggle on the offensive side of the ball in the first quarter, combining to score just six points through the first five minutes of the contest. Turnovers would prove detrimental for the Skyhawks as seven turnovers in the opening quarter led to easy baskets for the Panthers. After 10 minutes of play, the contest would be tied at 12.
The two squads would find some added firepower in the second quarter as the teams combined to score 35 points in the period. The score would change hands three times in the second with Eastern Illinois stringing a pair of runs to take a lead a large as three-point in the quarter behind 13 first half points from Steele. Despite the strong play by the Panthers, the Skyhawks would narrowly outscore the home squad during the quarter by one point as seven players reached the scoring column and UT Martin took a 30-29 lead into halftime.
UT Martin turned up the intensity in the third quarter, pushing its lead up to 11 points with three minutes to play in the period. The post duo of Perry and Feldhaus would combine to score 13 of the team’s 20 points in the quarter to give the Skyhawks a 50-41 advantage heading into the final quarter of play.
The Skyhawks would stay aggressive in the fourth quarter, wearing the Panthers down in the waning minutes. UT Martin would outscore Eastern Illinois 22-3 in the final period as seven different players got in the board in the fourth alone. With the strong play down the stretch, the Skyhawks would pull away to secure a 72-44 victory.
UT Martin will remain on the road with a contest at OVC rival SIUE on Saturday, Jan. 20. Tipoff from the Vadalabene Center is scheduled for 6 p.m.