MARTIN, Tenn. – The University of Tennessee at Martin men’s basketball team delivered an inspired effort tonight against Ohio Valley Conference West champion Murray State but the Racers pulled away late for an 86-72 win at the Kathleen and Tom Elam Center.
The Skyhawks (8-22, 3-12 OVC) trailed by 11 points in the first half but battled back to cut their deficit to one at the halftime break. UT Martin then took its first lead of the game with 15:12 to go in the contest but the Racers concluded the game on a 23-10 run over the final 11:25.
Myles Taylor led the Skyhawks with 16 points, seven rebounds, four assists and two blocks this evening. Dee Oldham continued his hot stretch with 15 points, four rebounds, four assists and two steals while Terence Smith also added 10 points and six boards. Mike Liabo and Justin Childs scored nine points apiece while Javier Martinez compiled eight points on a perfect 4-for-4 shooting night.
Murray State (18-9, 13-2 OVC) placed five players in double-figures, led by TJ Sapp’s 20 points. Cameron Payne added 17 points and eight assists while Jarvis Williams (14 points, nine rebounds), Dexter Fields (12) and Jeffery Moss (12) pitched in for a Racer offense that shot 55.2 percent (32-for-58) from the floor.
“I thought we played hard and rose to the challenge but Murray State answered every run we had with a run of their own,” Skyhawk head coach Jason James said. “It went back-and-forth and we just couldn’t quite get over that hump.”
The Racers started off the game on a 10-2 run but UT Martin stormed back with eight unanswered points to even the score at 10-all on a Chandler Rowe layup at the 15:09 mark.
Another 10-2 run by Murray State led to a 25-14 Racer lead midway through the first half. The resilient Skyhawks kept clawing back, slicing the Murray State lead down to one point on three different occasions until an old-fashioned three-point play by Taylor evened the score at 38-all with 54 seconds left before the break.
Murray State would soon go ahead by four points but Oldham knocked down a three-pointer at the halftime buzzer to pull the Skyhawks within one point at 42-41.
Taylor and Williams led their respective squads with 12 points apiece in the first half while Oldham added 10 points for UT Martin, who shot 55.6 percent (5-for-9) from three-point range in the first 20 minutes.
The Racers accounted for six of the first eight points scored in the second half but an 11-5 Skyhawk run resulted in a 54-53 UT Martin lead when Oldham canned a three-pointer at the 15:12 mark.
Murray State used an 8-1 run to take a 61-55 advantage but a three-pointer by Liabo and layup by Childs on back-to-back possessions made the score 63-62 with 11:25 left to play.
The UT Martin offense then went cold, not scoring a point for 4:50 while Murray State built up a 72-62 lead. A pair of Childs free throws with a tick under six minutes remaining got the Skyhawks within six points but the Racers answered with a 9-2 run to go ahead by an 81-68 margin with 3:55 to go.
The Skyhawks kept battling back but wouldn’t get any closer than nine points the rest of the way.
UT Martin holds its regular season finale on Saturday, Feb. 28 when it takes on Austin Peay on Senior Day. Prior to the game, the five Skyhawk seniors (Liabo, Childs, Bobby Jones, Pierre Mopo and Omari Minor) will be recognized for their career contributions at UT Martin. Tipoff for the game is set for 4 p.m.