MARTIN, Tenn. – The University of Tennessee at Martin men’s basketball team connected on a season-high 57.8 percent of its shot attempts this afternoon in a 77-68 triumph over SIU Edwardsville in a nationally-televised contest at the Kathleen and Tom Elam Center.
The Skyhawks (7-17, 4-8 Ohio Valley Conference) took the lead for good with 8:39 to play in the first half and led by as many as 17 with less than three minutes to play on their way to the victory. UT Martin coasted to the victory thanks to a 14-for-21 shooting (66.7 percent) effort in the second half, which ties the Skyhawks’ best shooting half in head coach Jason James’ four seasons at the helm.
Despite battling sickness just minutes before the contest, sophomore forward Myles Taylor led all scorers with 23 points in only 22 minutes off the bench. The Little Rock, Ark. native converted five of his six shot attempts from the field and added 13 free throws in a career-high 17 attempts.
Terence Smith poured in 16 points on 6-of-9 shooting, Mike Liabo registered 15 points, five rebounds and five assists and Jeremy Washington pulled down a team-high seven rebounds for UT Martin, who swept the season series against its fellow OVC West rival Cougars with the victory today.
“Today we were balanced – everybody answered the bell when it was their time,” James said. “We executed the right way and played good team basketball – that has to be how we play. The kids played extremely well and I’m proud of the way they responded today.”
Jerome Jones scored 18 points to lead SIU Edwardsville (8-13, 4-7 OVC). Kris Davis scored 15 points and handed out seven assists to round out the double-figure scorers for the Cougars.
Washington was responsible for the Skyhawks’ first four points, resulting in a pair of ties through the first four-plus minutes. SIU Edwardsville would take a four-point lead with just under 13 minutes to play in the first half before back-to-back three-pointers by Liabo elevated UT Martin ahead 13-11 two minutes later.
Two more ties took place over the next minute of play before eight unanswered Skyhawk points gave UT Martin the lead for good. That spurt – which included three fast break dunks – began a 12-1 Skyhawk run that occurred over 3:09 to give UT Martin a 27-16 advantage with 5:30 remaining before the halftime break.
Back-to-back jumpers by BJ McLaughlin kept the Skyhawk lead in double-figures (37-27) before SIU Edwardsville hit a three-pointer with one second left to make the halftime score 37-30.
Taylor’s 13 points led all scorers at the break, while Jones scored a dozen to lead SIU Edwardsville.
SIU Edwardsville scored the first four points of the second half to get within one possession (37-34) but Liabo answered with a big trey at the 19 minute mark. The Cougars would hang around – trailing 47-44 five minutes into the second half – before a Smith layup capped off a 6-0 spurt and resulted in a 53-44 UT Martin lead with 12 minutes to go.
Minutes later, a 7-0 Skyhawk run provided a 14-point advantage after Liabo canned his fourth 3-pointer of the day with just under eight minutes remaining. An old-fashioned three-point play by Liabo made the score 63-47 at the 7:10 mark.
The Cougars would cut their deficit to 11 on two occasions but UT Martin did not allow the Cougars to get within single-digits until seven seconds remained in the contest. A jumper by Justin Childs at the 2:48 mark gave the Skyhawks their biggest lead of the day (71-54) and four free throws by Taylor down the stretch iced UT Martin’s third OVC win in its last four games.
The Skyhawks close out a four-game homestand next Saturday, Feb. 16 when they take on Southeast Missouri at 6 p.m.