CONWAY, Ark. – The University of Tennessee at Martin men’s basketball team nearly overcame a 14-point second half deficit this evening but its comeback attempt fell just short, dropping an 87-86 decision to Central Arkansas at the Farris Center.
In a game that saw the lead change hands 13 times in the first half alone, the Skyhawks shot the lights out in the second half – shooting at a 65.5 percent clip (19-for-29). After a run by the Bears resulted in a 14-point lead with 12:34 left to play, UT Martin whittled its deficit all the way down to one point with 5:27 to play. However, the Skyhawks couldn’t tie or overtake the lead from that point forward.
UT Martin (3-6) received stellar post play this evening, led by Myles Taylor’s 19 points and seven rebounds. Sophomore Tobias Dowdell compiled career-highs in points (13) and rebounds (13) in only 23 minutes for his first career double-double, while Mike Liabo pitched in 15 points in 21 minutes off the bench. BJ McLaughlin (career-highs of nine points, eight rebounds), Bobby Jones (nine) and Dee Oldham (eight) also nearly cracked double-figures in the scoring column for the Skyhawks, who outrebounded Central Arkansas by a 42-30 margin.
“Our post players played hard and competed tonight,” UT Martin head coach Jason James said. “They did just about everything we asked them to do. I’m proud of our team – we fought hard but just came up a little short."
Ryan Williams’ 20 points led Central Arkansas (3-3), while LaQuentin Miles (16 points), Jordan Harks (15), Robert Crawford (14) and DeShone McClure (12) also reached double-figures for the Bears, who held a 33-12 advantage in free throw attempts for the game.
Justin Childs accounted for four of the Skyhawks’ first six points, helping UT Martin jumpt out to a lead right out of the gate. Central Arkansas soon would open up a five-point lead before a Skyhawk 7-0 run – capped off by a Jones three-pointer – gave UT Martin a 13-11 lead with just under 15 minutes to play.
The Bears reclaimed the lead before Dowdell inspired a quick spurt of six unanswered points to make the score 19-14 in UT Martin’s favor with 11:38 left before halftime. The sophomore out of Birmingham, Ala. was responsible for six of the Skyhawks’ eight points during a stretch of 3:55.
After a 7-0 Central Arkansas run resulted in a six-point advantage for the Bears, McLaughlin went off – scoring all nine of his points over a span of 4:29 to give UT Martin a 36-34 lead. However, the Bears closed out the half with four straight points to take a 38-36 advantage into the locker room.
McLaughlin’s nine first-half points were a game-high, while Dowdell (six points, seven rebounds in six minutes) also paced the Skyhawks.
Central Arkansas began the second half on a 10-2 run, going on top by 10 points before a Jones trifecta at the 17:10 mark gave UT Martin some momentum back. The Bears eventually would lead by 14 on two occasions but the Skyhawks wouldn’t give up – as Dowdell scored five straight points to ignite a 7-0 run that made the score 67-60 in Central Arkansas’ favor with 11:10 remaining.
With its deficit still at seven, UT Martin unreeled six unanswered points – finished off by a pair of Liabo free throws that made the score 74-73 with 5:27 left to play.
The Bears eventually extended their lead out to eight at the 1:54 mark but a pair of three-pointers by Oldham made the score close until the final buzzer.
The Skyhawks play the middle game of their three-game road trip on Saturday, Dec. 8, when they travel to in-state rival Lipscomb. Tip-off is set for 6:30 p.m.