LEXINGTON, Ky. – The University of Tennessee at Martin men’s basketball team hung with No. 1 Kentucky through the first half of play tonight but a lengthy offensive drought doomed the Skyhawks in a 111-76 loss at Rupp Arena.
UT Martin (5-2) placed four players in double-figures scoring tonight, led by Matthew Butler’s 15 points. Jacolby Mobley (14), Kedar Edwards (13) and Javier Martinez (11) also contributed to the Skyhawk offensive attack, as UT Martin compiled the most points that Kentucky has allowed so far this season.
Malik Monk paced all scorers with 26 points for the top-ranked Wildcats (6-0). De’Aaron Fox scored 16 points while Edrice Adebayo and Wenyen Gabriel added 15 points apiece. Sacha Killeya-Jones and Mychal Mulder compiled 12 points each for the Wildcats, who shot 55.4 percent (41-of-74) for the contest.
“This was a learning experience for us,” Skyhawk head coach Anthony Stewart said. “I thought in the first half we played extremely hard. We had the lead for a brief moment and really competed. But Kentucky is the No. 1 team in the country for a reason. Those kids played very hard, played together and that’s what we strive to reach with our program.”
UT Martin did not show any signs of nerves early, as Butler sank a step-back three-pointer to give the Skyhawks a 3-0 lead. After the Wildcats scored the next nine points of the game, Martinez tallied four straight points for UT Martin before Mobley scored back-to-back buckets to give the Skyhawks a 16-15 lead at the 11:11 mark.
Kentucky answered with seven straight points before a fast break dunk by Edwards trimmed UT Martin’s deficit to 22-18 midway through the half. An old-fashioned three-point play by Martinez at the 9:09 mark kept the Skyhawks within striking distance but the Wildcats soon reeled off an 8-0 run over a span of 1:29 to go ahead by a 39-25 margin.
Kentucky led by 18 points with a little over three minutes remaining in the first half but the Skyhawks kept fighting, as Edwards knocked down three-pointers on two straight trips down the floor. An old-fashioned three-point play by Butler made the score 51-38 with 1:07 to go in the first half before the Wildcats took a 53-38 advantage into the break.
Edwards dialed up a game-high 13 points in the first half while Butler also reached double-figures in the scoring column with 10 points for UT Martin, who shot 48.5 percent (16-of-33). Kentucky was led by 12 points out of Fox, as the Wildcats made their first 13 free throw attempts of the half.
Buckets by Martinez and Butler began the second-half scoring for the Skyhawks but Kentucky soon took advantage of a cold spell for UT Martin. The Skyhawks went without a field goal for 6:42 while Monk carried the Wildcats during a 42-9 run that gave Kentucky a 99-51 lead. Monk was responsible for 14 points – including nine straight in the span of 59 seconds at one point.
UT Martin was able to close its deficit behind strong three-point shooting, as Dante Bailey, Mobley, Butler and Chandler Rowe each knocked down shots from long range over a 2:45. Malik London (two), Kahari Beaufort (three) and Jalen Jackson (three) combined for the Skyhawks’ final eight points down the stretch.
The Skyhawks will look to get back on the winning track when they return home on Tuesday, Nov. 29 against Florida Atlantic. The game – which serves as the backend of a doubleheader with the UT Martin women’s basketball team – will tip off at approximately 7:30 p.m.