MARTIN, Tenn. – Scoring has not been a problem for the University of Tennessee at Martin women’s basketball team as of late, tallying triple digits for the third consecutive game, picking up the 103-84 victory over defending Ohio Valley Conference champion Eastern Illinois.
The Skyhawks (16-6, 9-0 OVC) remained undefeated in conference play with their ninth consecutive win. During the stretch, the Skyhawks have tallied four 100-plus scoring outputs including three games in a row. With five triple-digit victories on the year, the Skyhawks become the first team in program history to accomplish the feat in a single season.
For the fifth time this season the Skyhawk defense made a stand by forcing 20 turnovers or more. Despite winning the turnover battle, Eastern Illinois shot an impressive 60 percent from the floor, including a 70 percent second half to keep the margin within reach.
Offensively, the Skyhawks shot 58 percent from the floor as four players reached double figures. Senior Heather Butler led the way with a game high 28 points and career best nine assist performance. Freshman Ashia Jones tossed in a career best 27 points while registering three steals on the defensive end. A career high 15 points by Katie Schubert compounded with 13 points, seven assists and six steals from Jasmine Newsome rounded out the Skyhawks.
“I was impressed with how we started the game, jumping out to a quick advantage and seemed to click on all cylinders,” said UT Martin coach Kevin McMillan. “I thought that we began to give them glimpses of hope and we could not put them away effectively. We’re looking through the lenses of being a great basketball team, and tonight I thought we were just a good team. We can be a great team, but we are trying to get past settling with good.”
Eastern Illinois (8-12, 3-6 OVC) garnered career nights from a pair of players as Katlyn Payne and Arnisha Thomas set new personal bests. Payne led the Panthers with 26 points, making 7-of-16 three-pointers. Thomas tossed in 16 points, scoring all of her points in the opening half. Junior Sabina Oroszova finished with 22 points and seven rebounds to cap the Panthers.
Jones got the game started by forcing a quick turnover before capping the sequence with a three-point play at the other end of the floor. The Skyhawks would nail back-to-back threes off the hands of Schubert and Butler, causing the Panthers to call a timeout less than two minutes into the game. Forcing three quick turnovers while shooting over 67 percent from the floor would give the Skyhawks the 16-9 lead at the first media.
The Skyhawks would push their lead out to 21-12 at the next media after outscoring the Panthers 5-3. Schubert knocked down her second three-pointer of the game before Tiara Caldwell finished a drive with a turnaround layup.
The tandem of Jones and Butler continued to pace the Skyhawks, combining for 10 of the team’s 13 points during the ensuing four minute span. With six points during the span, Jones continued her double figures streak to seven games as the Skyhawks led 34-17.
The Skyhawks would continue their defensive effort, forcing their 12th turnover right before the 3:55 media mark. Outscoring the Panthers 10-6, the Skyhawks would push their lead 21 with a 44-23 advantage.
The Panthers would look to close the gap in the final minutes of the first half, putting together a 12-7 run. At the halftime break, the Skyhawks would lead 51-35 as both Jones and Butler with in double figures with 13 and 12 points, respectively. The Panthers were led by Thomas who tallied 16 first half points, exceeding her career high in the first period.
The second half began much like the first as Butler knocked down a quick field goal before setting up Schubert for a three-pointer following a steal in the backcourt. The duo of Butler and Jones teamed up again to score five points each as the Skyhawks outscored the Panthers 13-7 in the opening minutes of the second.
A pair of Panthers joined Thomas in double figures as Payne added six points off a pair of three-pointers and Oroszova tallied four points. With the Panthers 13-9 run, EIU trimmed the Skyhawk lead to 73-55 with 11:21 to play in the second.
The Panthers continued to cut the margin by knocking down a trio of three-pointers, including a pair of Payne. Outscoring the Skyhawk 11-7, EIU brought the game within 14, trailing 80-66 with less than eight minutes to play.
The Skyhawks would respond with a 15-9 run over the next four minutes of play. With four players in double figures for the Skyhawks, the home team held a 95-75 advantage with just under four minutes to play.
In the closing minutes the Skyhawks would reach triple digits for the third consecutive game. The Skyhawks are the first team in program history to score 100-plus on four occasions in a single season. With the final score of 103-84, the Skyhawks remain undefeated in conference play.
UT Martin will return to action on Monday, Feb. 3 when they travel to OVC East foe Eastern Kentucky. Tipoff from McBrayer Arena is schedule for 6 p.m. Central time.