MURRAY, Ky. – In a game which tallied 18 lead changes, the University of Tennessee at Martin women’s basketball team saw three players score over 20 points to elevate the Skyhawks to the 88-87 victory over Ohio Valley Conference rival Murray State.
The Skyhawks (9-6, 2-0 OVC) forced 18 turnovers in route to a second half comeback and the eventual victory despite a substantial rebounding differential. Shooting over 40 percent on the night, the Skyhawk defense forced 10 turnovers in the second half while holding the Racer offense to just 24 percent in the half.
Offensively, the Skyhawks looked to the play of the dangerous trio of Heather Butler, Jasmine Newsome and Ashia Jones. Butler led the Skyhawks with 33 points and four assists while Newsome tossed in 24 points and three steals. Jones joined the senior duo with 20 points and 10 rebounds, notching her first career double-double. The trio marked the first group of Skyhawks to score 20 points or more since March 2, 2012 against Murray State in the OVC Tournament.
“I thought we played a disappointing ballgame but were fortunate enough to win the game,” said UT Martin coach Kevin McMillan. “Statistically, we lost several categories but at the end of the day, we did enough to win the game and have to improve to get where we truly want to be.”
Murray State (7-7, 0-2 OVC) placed five players in double figures. Keiona Kirby tallied 27 points while Taylor Porter tossed in 11 points. The trio of Jashae Lee, Janssen Starks and Julia Fox each tallied 10 points to round out the double-digit scorers for the Racers.
The Skyhawks jumped out to an early 13-8 advantage, keyed in large part behind a 7-1 run before the media break. Led by five points from Ashia Jones, including four rebounds, the Skyhawks had four players score in the opening four minutes of play.
The Racers wasted little time retaliating, answering with a 14-6 run of their own over the next three minutes of play. Knocking down four three-pointers during the span, including three in a row, the Racers’ 9-0 run was enough to take the 22-19 lead.
Both teams exchanged blows over the ensuing four minutes of play as the Skyhawks put together a 14-4 run to retake the lead, led by Newsome and Butler. The run was short live though, as the Racers responded with a quick 7-0 run of their own to take a 38-all tie into the 7:04 media break.
With each team scoring seven points over the next break, neither team gained any room as the game remained tied at 45-45 with 3:59 to play.
Murray State closed out the first half strong, outscoring the Skyhawks 9-5 at time wound down in the opening period. Taking a 54-50 lead in the half, the Racers were led in scoring by Kirby’s 16 points. The Skyhawks placed three players in double figures in the first half, led by Butler’s 17 points. Butler was joined in double figures by Newsome and Jones who scored 13 and 11 points, respectively.
The Skyhawks slightly trimmed the Racers advantage, outscoring the opposition 12-11 over the opening five minutes of the second. The trio of Newsome, Butler and Jones each scored in the opening minutes while the Racers got four points each from Kirby and Jessica Winfrey.
On the comeback trail, the Skyhawks used a slight 4-0 run to outscoring the Racers 6-4 over the next two minutes. Trailing by just one, the Skyhawks were looking at a 69-68 deficit with 11:39 to play.
The Skyhawks forced three turnovers to retake the lead at the 6:57 mark, the first lead for the Skyhawks since the 9:44 mark of the first. The dynamic duo of Butler and Newsome combined for nine of the team’s 11 point during the span.
UT Martin would outscore the Racers 7-4 over the next four minutes to push out lead out to four points with 3:39 to play. During the span, Jones joined four points, marking the third Skyhawk to scoring over 20 points as the Skyhawks led 86-82.
Murray State made a valiant comeback in the closing minutes, outscoring the Skyhawks 5-2 but could not overcome the one point deficit, falling 88-87.
The Skyhawks will return to action on Monday, Jan. 6 when they travel to Austin Peay. Action from the Dunn Center has been moved up for a 5:30 p.m. tip-off.