CARBONDALE, Ill. – Defense wins championships and the University of Tennessee at Martin women’s basketball team made major strides towards continuing its championship pedigree in the 85-55 road victory at Southern Illinois.
The Skyhawks (7-5) snapped their two-game losing streak with a consistent effort at both ends of the court, forcing 36 turnovers while shooting nearly 50 percent from the floor. Of the team’s 85 points scored, 48 points were scored off turnovers, including 16 points in transition. The 36 forced turnovers marked a season high and the most in the Kevin McMillan era.
Offensively the Skyhawks placed four players in double figures while seven players scored seven points or more. The Skyhawks were led in scoring by freshman Ashia Jones who tallied a career-high 17 points and game-high five steals. Jones was joined in double figures by Heather Butler who tallied 15 points while Elizabeth Masengil and Jasmine Newsome each tallied 12 points on the afternoon.
Newsome’s 12 point performance moved the senior into ninth on the Ohio Valley Conference’s all-time scoring list with 2,181 career points. Her performance jumped former Morehead State guard Chynna Bozeman (2,170) and Southeast Missouri’s Gray Harris (2,176) previous career marks.
“Our effort tonight was better tonight and if we can get some time to work on some things, I think that we are starting to turn a corner,” said McMillan. “When we press we play hard, and when we play hard we tend to get results we are looking for. You saw some glimpses of the type of team that we can be. We are just trying to find that consistency in effort and put together a solid string of games.”
The Salukis (2-8) were led by Azia Washington who tallied 21 points and six rebounds. Washington was joined in double figures by Mercedes Griffin, chipping in 11 points.
Neither team began the game with much fluidity, as both teams combined for 10 turnovers in the first five minutes of the game. The Skyhawks however, held a 5-2 advantage at the first media break.
Coming out of the media break, the Skyhawks came out in a full court press which caused several problems for the Salukis. Over the next four minutes of the game, the Skyhawks forced SIU into seven turnovers, forcing a total of 13 turnovers with 11:08 to play in the first. Butler led a Skyhawk offense which outscored the Salukis 12-4, scoring eight points during the span.
The Skyhawks held a slim advantage through the next media break, outscoring the Salukis 7-6. Forcing three more turnovers, the Skyhawks tallied a pair of three-point field goals by Chelsea Roberts and Megan White. UT Martin held a 24-12 lead with 7:51 to play in the first.
UT Martin continued on the offensive, going on an 11-6 run through the 4:09 media mark. Led in large part by Newsome’s five points during the three minute span, the Skyhawks pushed their lead out to a 35-18 advantage.
The Skyhawks finished the first half by outscoring the Salukis 10-7, taking a 45-25 lead into the halftime break. Newsome led all scorers with 12 points while Butler trailed with eight points in the period. The Salukis were led by Washington’s 10 first half points while Griffin tallied seven points.
The second half began like much of the first half ended as the Skyhawks forced six turnovers in the half’s opening four minutes of play. The turnovers led to the Skyhawks jumping out to a 13-6 run including seven points off turnovers.
The Salukis made a run of their own over the next four minutes, outscoring the Skyhawks 11-9. Washington added another four points while Jones, Masengil and Butler each reached double figures. The Skyhawks held a 67-42 lead with 11:54 to play.
UT Martin would proceed to go on an 8-2 run over the next media break, led by four points by Butler.
The Salukis would look to respond in the game’s final minutes, but the deficit and turnover margin proved to be too much to overcome as the Skyhawks pulled off the 85-55 victory.
UT Martin will take off the next few days for the holidays before returning to action on Saturday, Dec. 28 when they travel to Florida State. Tip-off between the Skyhawks and the Seminoles is schedule for 1 p.m. Central time.