NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The University of Tennessee at Martin men’s basketball team left it all on the floor tonight in the opening round of the Ohio Valley Conference tournament, but the Skyhawks concluded their season with a hard-fought 73-66 loss to Morehead State at Municipal Auditorium. UT Martin ends the 2012-13 season with a 9-21 overall record, including a 5-11 OVC mark.
Junior Mike Liabo registered a game-high 24 points for UT Martin, just one shy of his season-best scoring total. The Naples, Fla. native converted five of his 11 field goal attempts – including a 4-for-9 performance from three-point range – while sinking 10 of his 11 attempts from the charity stripe.
Terence Smith added 16 points for the Skyhawks, while Jeremy Washington wrapped up his two-year UT Martin career with 12 points, three rebounds, a career-high three blocks and two steals. Justin Childs tallied eight points, three rebounds, three steals and two assists for the Skyhawks, who limited Morehead State to 7.7 percent shooting (1-for-13) from beyond the three-point arc.
Morehead State (15-17) was led by Milton Chavis’ 14 points, while Bruce Reed and Angelo Warner each scored 11 points for the Eagles.
Skyhawk head coach Jason James was proud of his team as UT Martin played without leading scorer and rebounder Myles Taylor tonight. Taylor suffered a season-ending knee injury in the regular season finale at Austin Peay on March 2.
“I thought we were hungry,” James said. “I thought we were excited to be here and excited to play. I think there’s a big difference between being happy to be here and wanting to play. I thought we took some things in stride and continued to execute our game plan for the most part. I was proud of their effort.”
A Liabo three-pointer at the 19:21 mark put UT Martin ahead 3-0 – a lead the Skyhawks would keep for the first 8:38 of the contest. In a span of 2:21, the lead changed hands six times until the Skyhawks pieced together a 7-0 run to go on top 24-20 with 5:18 to go in the first half.
However, Morehead State answered with 12 straight points to go on top 30-24 with 1:50 to play in the first half. Three-pointers by Smith and Liabo in the final 1:05 helped the Skyhawks trim their halftime deficit to 36-30.
Liabo led all scorers with 15 points in the first half, while Chavis tallied nine points to pace the Eagles.
After a Chavis free throw put Morehead State ahead 43-34 with 17:24 remaining but UT Martin would soon get within one possession. A Liabo trey and back-to-back layups by Smith resulted in a 7-1 run that made the score 44-41 with 15:29 to go.
A Khristian Taylor free throw sliced the Skyhawk deficit to 48-46 a little under three minutes later. However, Morehead State then scored 11 unanswered points over a stretch of 4:46 resulted in a 59-46 Eagle lead at the under-8 media timeout.
Just as it has demonstrated all season - the never-say-die Skyhawks did not give up, scrapping its way back to within single-digits thanks to a 13-4 run. UT Martin would ultimately get as close as five points (71-66) with two seconds left before Morehead State iced the game with a pair of free throws.