MARTIN, Tenn.– Four seniors on the University of Tennessee at Martin women’s basketball team were recognized before today’s regular season finale against Austin Peay. The Skyhawks would put on a collective show as they closed out the regular season slate with a record setting performance to pick up the 116-85 Ohio Valley Conference victory over the visiting Lady Govs.
The Skyhawks (22-7, 15-1 OVC) recognized seniors Heather Butler, Jasmine Newsome, Megan White and manager Tabitha Causey as the winningest class to come through UT Martin. On top of winning the program’s first two outright OVC regular season championships, a trio of OVC Tournament championships and the programs first three consecutive NCAA Tournament berths, the foursome led the program to 85 wins and a 55-11 worksheet in conference play.
“Our effort from this game was a grind and I am very proud of our senior class,” said UT Martin coach Kevin McMillan. “Our senior class of Tabitha Causey, Megan White, Jasmine Newsome and Heather Butler has been outstanding when it comes to accolades and achievements. This group of seniors has probably resulted in more exposure and positive publicity for this university than any group I have ever been around. I’ve been incredibly proud to coach this group and someday we’ll look back and really realize how spoiled that we have been.”
Sending the seniors out in deserving fashion, the Skyhawks broke four UT Martin records, on top of several personal bests. UT Martin scored a single-game record 116 points, breaking the previous mark of 114 points against Tennessee State on Jan. 2, 2012. The senior duo of Butler and Newsome continued to rewrite the record books as Butler tied her previous single-game record with 44 points, matching her output against Eastern Kentucky and Newsome’s performance earlier this season against Quinnipiac.
A large part of Butler’s successful afternoon was her shooting ability from beyond the arc, tying Newsome’s previous record with nine made three-pointers in a single game. Newsome who tallied 25 points on the afternoon, dished out a program record 14 assists, breaking the long standing record of 13 held by Gwen Long since Nov. 21, 1986.
Along with the senior duo’s impressive game accomplishments, the duo continue to climb their respective NCAA and OVC leaderboards. With Butler’s 44 point performance, she not only continued her double figures streak to 126 consecutive games which ranks seventh in NCAA history, but became the OVC’s all-time leader in made three-point field goals with 381 while jumping from 23rd to 20th on the NCAA all-time scoring list with 2,811 career points. Newsome tallied 25 points to move into third on the OVC’s all-time scoring list, passing Austin Peay’s Brooke Armistead with 2,512 points. Newsome now needs just 15 points to move into second, making both Butler and Newsome the no. 1 and 2 scorers in league history.
“All of our season accomplishments mean nothing to this point,” said McMillan. “Reality is that we are a single bid league and all that matters now is the tournament. It doesn’t matter what you have done in the regular season or in your career, everything comes down to next week. I just hope our kids are ready.”
Austin Peay (9-20, 6-10 OVC) shot 50 percent from the floor but were eliminated from OVC Tournament contention with the loss. The Lady Govs placed four players in double figures, led by the play of Kristen Stainback who tallied 21 points and seven assists. Stainback was joined in double figures by Tiasha Gray (19), Beth Rates (16 points and nine rebounds) and Jennifer Nwokocha (13).
Austin Peay jumped out to an early 8-4 lead before the Skyhawks would respond with a 4-1 run of their own. Newsome scored six of the team’s opening eight points but would trail the Lady Govs 9-8 at the first media timeout.
With the Skyhawks trailing by six with 13:55 to play, the home team scored six unanswered points over the next 30 seconds, causing the Lady Govs to call a timeout. Ultimately the Lady Govs would outscore the Skyhawks 14-13 over a period of four minutes, leading 23-21 with 11:44 to play in the first. Butler would knock down a pair of three-pointers while Jones tallied five points during the span.
The Skyhawks began to claw back into the game by forcing three turnovers are the ensuing three minutes of play while Newsome and Butler both tallied three-pointers to cut the Lady Govs lead to one.
UT Martin would tie the game at the five minute mark after Butler hit Warfield-Cross on a backdoor cut which resulted in a three-point play, knotting the game at 39-all. A jumper by Butler just outside of the paint at 4:31 mark gave the Skyhawks just their second lead of the game. During the Skyhawks 12-6 run, both Newsome and Butler would reach double figures.
The Skyhawks ended the first half on a 13-4 run, taking a 57-43 lead into the locker room. Newsome led all scorers with 19 points and seven assists in the first half while Butler tallied 15 points. Austin Peay was led by Rates who tallied 12 points and four rebounds.
Austin Peay came out attacking in the opening minutes of the second half, outscoring the Skyhawks 13-10 in the opening four minutes of play. Butler came out firing to start the second half, tallying eight of the team’s 10 points, including a pair of trifectas. Stainback joined double figure scorers for the Lady Govs with nine points of her own to start the second.
The Skyhawks went on a 17-6 run over the next four minutes as Butler continued her career night with nine points during the span. Newsome would not be outdone, notching a program single-game record with her 14th assist on the night.
The record breaking night would continue in the game’s next four minutes as Butler tied the school’s single game three-point record with nine made trifectas along with the single-game scoring record as she tallied her 44th point at the 4:06 mark.
UT Martin would ultimately outscore the Lady Govs 59-42 in the second half as the Skyhawks coasted to the 116-85 victory. The win saw the Skyhawks break the single game scoring record with 115 points, scoring over 100 points for the eighth time this season, while moving the team to 15-1 in conference play, tying the program’s best conference finish.
UT Martin will return to action in the semifinals of the OVC Tournament after earning the No. 1 seed and a double bye. The Skyhawks will have to wait to find out their opponent before opening play on Friday, March 7 at noon.