RICHMOND, Ky. – Senior guard Matthew Butler was the hero for the University of Tennessee at Martin men’s basketball team tonight, as his three-pointer from the deep right corner was the go-ahead bucket in a 70-69 Ohio Valley Conference road win at Eastern Kentucky.
The Skyhawks (9-17, 4-9 OVC) overcame a nine-point deficit in the contest to break through for a 62-55 advantage with 7:18 to go. Eastern Kentucky then got back in the game with some late momentum, snapping a 67-67 tie with a dunk with 10 seconds to go before Butler lifted UT Martin to its third straight victory in McBrayer Arena.
Butler brought the ball up the floor and drove baseline on the left side, finding an open Delfincko Bogan on the right wing. Bogan pumpfaked a three-point attempt to draw a Colonel defender before swinging the ball to an open Butler in the corner, who calmly hoisted the game-winning trey that found nothing but net with 1.4 seconds left.
Coming off the bench for the first time in his two-year Skyhawk career, Butler finished with 11 points and a game-high seven assists.
UT Martin was led in scoring by Bogan, who dialed up 19 points on 8-of-13 shooting. Mike Fofana sparked the Skyhawk comeback with a career-best 15 points to go along with six rebounds in 29 minutes off the bench while the trio of Fatodd Lewis (team-high eight rebounds), Dominique Williams (seven points, seven rebounds) and Terrence Parker (seven rebounds over the final 16 minutes of the game) helped UT Martin outrebound host Eastern Kentucky by a 34-28 margin.
Nick Mayo scored a career-high 36 points for the Colonels (8-18, 2-11 OVC), who also received 12 points off the bench from Dujuanta Weaver. Eastern Kentucky made 14 three-pointers in the contest but could not stop a Skyhawk offense that hit 54.7 percent (29-of-53) of their shot attempts.
“Tonight’s game was tough,” UT Martin head coach Anthony Stewart said. “It was back-and-forth late and it came down to the wire. One of the things we haven’t been doing in close games is execute and we did that in this game. We emphasized that this was a must-win game and Matthew did what seniors do – he made a huge shot when it mattered.”
Williams generated the first points of the contest with a stickback off an offensive rebound at the 18:19 mark. Mayo followed with a trio of three-pointers in the span of 56 seconds to suddenly tilt the score in favor of the Colonels.
Mayo scored on an acrobatic alley-oop layup to push Eastern Kentucky’s lead out to 13-4 before Bogan piled up five consecutive points to pull the Skyhawks within four points with 13:21 remaining in the first half.
Another Mayo trifecta nudged the Colonels ahead by seven points but a 9-2 UT Martin run evened the score at 18-all coming out of the under-8-minute media timeout. A Fofana leaner – his sixth point in a little over five-minute span – kept the score knotted at the 7:17 mark.
The Skyhawks trailed by just one point a little under three minutes later until Dillon Avare made two 3-pointers in the span of 21 seconds to make the score 33-26 in favor of Eastern Kentucky. Jailen Gill provided a thunderous dunk and Butler canned a three-pointer from the left side before the Colonels took a 36-31 halftime lead.
Bogan’s seven points paced seven different UT Martin scorers in the opening 20 minutes. Meanwhile, Mayo’s big first half included 23 points on 8-of-10 shooting (5-of-6 from three-point range) for Eastern Kentucky.
Mayo began the second-half scoring with a right wing three-pointer but Bogan answered 11 seconds later with a trey of his own, igniting a 10-2 Skyhawk run. The surge was wrapped up by an alley-oop dunk by Gill that evened the score at 41-41 with 16:43 to play.
After Eastern Kentucky claimed the next five points, Fofana took over the game. The sophomore out of Memphis, Tenn. recorded eight consecutive points for UT Martin over a 2:44 stretch to fuel the Skyhawk comeback.
Bogan sank a runner at the 12:29 mark to give UT Martin its first advantage since the opening basket of the contest. Bogan added a fast break layup and Fofana knocked down a free throw to put the Skyhawks on top by a 54-50 margin.
An old-fashioned three-point play by Darius Thompson with 7:18 left to play provided UT Martin with its biggest lead of the evening at 62-55.
The Colonels came right back with a 6-0 run to trim the Skyhawk lead to 62-61 with three minutes to go. Following a UT Martin missed shot, Lewis came up with a huge play – jumping in the passing lane underneath the Skyhawk basket for an easy layup to make the score 64-61. Bogan followed that with a fadeaway jumper from the right side to extend UT Martin’s lead to five points with 1:47 to go.
Eastern Kentucky converted a pair of three-pointers over the next 62 seconds – the last of which was a Mayo trey from the right wing that resulted in a 67-66 Skyhawk deficit. Thompson was fouled on a drive on the other end and made one of two free throws for the fourth tie of the game.
DeAndre Dishman found space for a dunk with 10 seconds to go to hand the Colonels a brief 69-67 lead with 10 seconds left. Butler then converted the clutch three-pointer to send UT Martin home a winner.
The Skyhawks now return home for their next three OVC contests, starting with a 6 p.m. matchup against Southeast Missouri on Saturday, Feb. 10. Tipoff will follow the conclusion of the women’s game as part of a doubleheader.