MARTIN, Tenn. – Four University of Tennessee at Martin players reached double-figures in the scoring column this afternoon as the Skyhawks pulled away at the end of an 89-79 victory over Longwood at the Kathleen and Tom Elam Center.
Junior Mike Liabo flirted with a triple-double today, compiling 15 points, a career-high nine assists and eight rebounds for UT Martin. Terence Smith led the team with 21 points, while Myles Taylor pitched in 18 points and BJ McLaughlin tied a career-best with 10 points and seven rebounds for the Skyhawks (8-19), who doubled their season win total from last season with the victory today.
Jeremy Washington (eight points) and Dee Oldham (seven points, four assists, four steals, three rebounds) also heavily contributed to UT Martin’s offensive attack, as the Skyhawks notched their highest scoring game against a Division-I opponent this season.
“Our energy and execution was good today,” Skyhawk head coach Jason James said. “Everybody not only fulfilled their role but dominated their role. In the first half, we had some good looks but we missed them. In the second half, we made those shots. We want to guard them but the name of the game is to put the ball in the hole and in the second half we did a better job of that.”
Longwood (6-23) was led by Tristan Carey’s 23 points and a double-double by Michael Kessens (11 points, 14 rebounds). Karl Ziegler added 14 points while David Robinson and Lucas Woodhouse scored 13 and 10 points, respectively.
Early baskets by McLaughlin and Liabo resulted in a 5-5 tie, but Longwood would soon score six unanswered to lead 11-5 at the 17:22 mark. A little over three minutes later, four straight points by McLaughlin resulted in the third tie of the game at 16-all with just under 14 minutes to play in the first half.
A tip-in by Washington and a jumper in the paint by Justin Childs on back-to-back possessions gave the Skyhawks their first lead of the game (22-21) at the 10:20 mark. The Lancers then pieced together six straight points over the next 57 seconds to lead 27-22 with a little over nine minutes remaining in the first half.
The Skyhawks charged back, unreeling an 11-2 run over a span of 3:48 to go on top 33-29 thanks to a jumper by DeMarc Richardson. However, the Lancers accounted for eight of the next nine points to go ahead 37-34 until Bobby Jones sank a three-pointer at the 2:43 mark to even the score for the fifth time in the first half. Longwood used a buzzer beater to take a 43-42 lead into the halftime break.
In the first half, Carey’s 11 points led Longwood while Smith compiled nine points to pace the Skyhawks.
A three-pointer by Taylor with 16:49 remaining tilted the score back in UT Martin’s favor (48-47), but Longwood answered back with five unanswered points. A Taylor layup at the 13:32 mark provided a 53-52 Skyhawk advantage – a lead UT Martin would not concede the rest of the way. Another Taylor jumper a minute later capped off a 9-0 Skyhawk run and made the score 57-52.
Longwood would tie the game at 57-all with 10:34 left, but Taylor connected on a three-pointer off an inbounds play on the Skyhawks’ next possession. A Smith three-pointer and Taylor jumper lifted UT Martin to a 65-59 lead with eight minutes to go.
The Lancers got within two points a little over a minute later, but a Liabo trey and four straight points by Washington provided an eight-point lead (72-64) with 4:36 left to play. On three different occasions, Longwood cut the Skyhawk lead to four but UT Martin iced the game at the free throw line – converting 12 of its final 14 attempts from the charity stripe in the final 43 seconds.
UT Martin now closes out its season with a pair of Ohio Valley Conference road games. The Skyhawks will travel to Murray State on Thursday, Feb. 28 and Austin Peay on Saturday, March 2.