EDWARDSVILLE, Ill. – Five players scored in double-figures for the University of Tennessee at Martin men’s basketball team this evening, but the Skyhawks fell 84-78 to SIU Edwardsville at the Vadalabene Center.
The Skyhawks trailed by 12 points with 12:38 mark but soon clawed back to pull within just two points on a pair of occasions inside of eight minutes to play. However, the deficit proved to be too large to overcome for UT Martin (7-19, 2-9 Ohio Valley Conference).
Mike Liabo paced the Skyhawks with 17 points, a game-high eight rebounds and four assists in 27 minutes off the bench. Myles Taylor and Terence Smith each scored 13 points while Justin Childs (12 points) and Marshun Newell (10 points, team-high seven assists) also carried the Skyhawks, who shot 50.8 percent (31-for-61) for the contest.
SIU Edwardsville (10-15, 6-5 OVC) was led by 24 points and a game-best eight assists out of Donivine Stewart. Kris Davis and Christian Salecich added 21 and 12 points, respectively for the Cougars, who won their sixth straight home game.
“Our execution is what hurt us down the stretch,” UT Martin head coach Jason James said. “We had it down to two and turned the ball over, then had the score down to four and had a shot blocked or fumbled the ball out of bounds and that’s what the game came down to on the offensive end. We got close but just couldn’t get over the hump. SIU Edwardsville made a bunch of tough shots.”
A bucket by Myles Taylor gave the Skyhawks their first lead of the game (4-3) at the 18:27 mark of the first half. Three-pointers on back-to-back possessions by Liabo and Newell provided UT Martin with a three-point advantage but the lead would change hands seven times over the next three minutes.
Khristian Taylor scored on a driving layup to the hoop with 11:11 remaining in the first half to even the score at 21-all. SIU Edwardsville would soon go ahead by four points but a lay-in by Chandler Rowe with just under eight minutes left resulted in a 27-27 tie.
The Cougars followed with six unanswered points and would eventually go on top 40-33 with 3:58 left before the halftime break. Five straight points by Childs kept the Skyhawks within one possession until SIU Edwardsville closed out the half by scoring five of the final six points to carry a 47-40 lead into the locker room.
Liabo (13 points) and Childs (12) guided UT Martin in the first half, as the Skyhawks shot 55.6 percent (15-for-27) in the first 20 minutes. Stewart paced the Cougars with 17 points in the first 20 minutes, as SIU Edwardsville knocked down 61.5 percent of its three-point attempts (8-for-13).
UT Martin whittled its deficit down to just two points thanks to a hot start in the second half. Newell was responsible for five straight points and after a Myles Taylor bucket at the 16:57 mark, the Skyhawks trailed 49-47.
SIU Edwardsville would follow with a 14-4 run over a span of 4:02 to take its biggest lead of the night at 63-51. The Skyhawks answered right back with a lengthy 10-0 run to get within two points (63-61) at the 7:32 mark.
The Cougars went back ahead by eight points with 3:46 remaining but UT Martin kept battling – getting back within four points on three different occasions in the final 2:22. However, the Skyhawks could not get within one possession the rest of the way.
The Skyhawks round out their season-long four-game homestand with another nationally televised game on Wednesday, Feb. 12 at Southeast Missouri. The game – which will be aired live on CBS Sports Network – is set to tip off at 8 p.m.