MARTIN, Tenn. – Fate would not be on the side of the home team as the University of Tennessee at Martin women’s basketball team dropped a heartbreaker against Southeastern Conference foe Missouri, 77-74, at the Kathleen and Tom Elam Center on Saturday night.
Despite holding a 19-point second half lead, the Skyhawks could not overcome a pair of late Missouri runs to come away with the victory. Missouri tied a season-high with 15 three-pointers in the game, including 10 in the second half alone.
The Skyhawks (3-2) were paced by a memorable night by senior guard Heather Butler. Butler tallied a season-high 36 points, including a 21 point opening period. Classmate Jasmine Newsome trailed Butler with 16 points and a game-high seven assists.
“We are not ready to win this game yet, as we made too many little mistakes,” said UT Martin head coach Kevin McMillan. “We’re trying to get there, but we’re just not ready to get there yet. We feel like we keep getting closer but we haven’t been able to close these games out as our margin for error, this early in the season, is so small.”
Missouri (5-0) was led by junior sharpshooter Morgan Eye who tallied 27 points, including eight three-pointers in the second half and nine overall. Bri Kulas tallied 16 points and a team-best five rebounds while Jordan Frericks tallied 10 points and career-high 17 rebounds, including adding the eventual game-winner.
The Skyhawks opened up the game with a 9-6 margin at the first media break. After forcing Missouri into three early team fouls and a 5-0 run, the Skyhawks forced the Tigers to call a timeout at the 15:32 mark.
UT Martin would continue their strong play through the next break, as Butler tallied five of the Skyhawks nine points over the next 4:34 minutes. The Skyhawks held a 17-15 advantage going into the media break.
Butler continued to impress through the next break, single handedly outscoring Missouri 7-3 over the course of the next 3:25. Butler’s run extended the Skyhawk lead from two to six points, with UT Martin leading 24-18 with 7:33 to play in the first.
The Skyhawks continued their offensive attack, outscoring Missouri 9-3 at the final media break of the first. UT Martin led Missouri 33-21 with 2:47 to play in the first half as Butler once again pushed the envelope with four points in the span along with Ashia Jones tallying a layup.
UT Martin went into the halftime break with a lead of 37-26. Butler led all scorers in the game with 21 first half points while Newsome tallied eight. Missouri was paced by Kulas’ seven points while Morgan and Maddie Stock each tallied six points, hitting two three-pointers each.
The Skyhawks began the second half by outscoring the Tigers 13-9 over the half’s opening 4:02. Once again it was Butler who was firing on all cylinders, tallying nine of the Skyhawks 13 points during that span.
Missouri looked to get back in the game during the next stretch of play, outscoring the Skyhawks 14-9 over a four-plus minute stretch. The Tigers tallied four three-pointer to slim the Skyhawk lead to 59-49 at the 11:32 mark.
The Tigers used the next break to inch even closer, outscoring the Skyhawks 8-3. Missouri pulled the margin to just a five point game as the Skyhawks clung to a 62-57 lead with 7:07 to play.
Missouri continued the offensive push with a huge run to overtake the Skyhawks and take a one point lead into the final media timeout, leading 68-67 with 3:44 to play. The Tigers were led in large part by Eye who tallied nine points over the span of four minutes.
The Skyhawks and Tigers would exchange leads two times in the game’s final three minutes of action but could not overcome Frerick’s final layup with two second to play. With the Skyhawks looking at a one point deficit, Newsome would drive down the middle before rising for a tough jumper to give the Skyhawks the lead with seven second to play. Missouri would look to respond as they used a drive of their own, capped off with a layup by Frerick.
The Skyhawks would have two final tries to tie the game, but could not cash in on their attempts, dropping the 77-74 decision.
The Skyhawks will be back in action on Monday, Nov. 25 when they take on Missouri Valley Conference foe Evansville. Tip-off from the Kathleen and Tom Elam Center is scheduled for 5:30 p.m.