NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The University of Tennessee at Martin men’s basketball team turned a 23-point second half deficit to just nine with 7:31 to play tonight but Belmont’s long range accuracy proved to be too much for the Skyhawks in an 83-67 loss at the Curb Event Center.
Jacolby Mobley helped spur UT Martin’s comeback with a team-best 22 points while Matthew Butler scored 15 points and Fatodd Lewis added 14 points. Malik London secured eight points, nine rebounds and two steals in 25 minutes off the bench for the Skyhawks (11-7, 1-2 Ohio Valley Conference).
Belmont (8-4, 2-0 OVC) was led by Nick Smith, who came off the bench to go 10-of-13 from three-point land for 30 points in 19 minutes. Dylan Windler and Amanze Egekeze tallied 15 and 11 points, respectively, for a Bruin squad that shot 51.4 percent (18-of-35) from three-point range.
“We just dig ourselves too big of a hole,” UT Martin head coach Anthony Stewart said. “You can’t be down by 19 at the half in conference play against a team like Belmont. You can’t play one half – you have to play two solid halves. We expected Belmont to make shots and we missed some rotations out of our zone. We have to do a better job of coming out with intensity and energy.”
Long jumpers by Mobley and Butler got the Skyhawk offense going, giving UT Martin an early advantage. However, Belmont’s sixth 3-pointer of the first six minutes of the game resulted in an 18-8 lead for the Bruins.
Butler dropped in four consecutive points to ignite a 9-0 Skyhawk run that sliced UT Martin’s deficit to 18-17 following a Lewis trey and a London putback.
After a Lewis steal and fast break dunk kept the Skyhawks within a single possession, Belmont unreeled the next 14 points of the contest to go on top by a 35-19 margin. Smith’s fourth trifecta in the span of 1:46 helped the Bruins to a 47-25 lead.
UT Martin went on a 10-2 surge, with Butler and Mobley accounting for five points apiece to make the score 49-35. Belmont came back with five points in the final 41 seconds to make the score 54-35 at the halftime break.
Butler (13) and Mobley (10) each cracked double-figures in the scoring column in the first 20 minutes as the Skyhawks connected on an even 50 percent (15-for-30) of their field goal attempts. Smith was 7-for-7 from three-point range while the Bruins were 14-of-23 from beyond the three-point arc for a 60.9 percent shooting effort.
UT Martin struck first in the second half but Belmont was able to score five straight points to take a 59-36 lead. The Skyhawks were responsible for the next 10 points of the game, as Mobley scored on drives to the hoop on back-to-back possessions to help UT Martin pull within 13 points.
Belmont stretched its lead back out to 19 points with 11:21 remaining but the Skyhawks came clawing back. Mobley buried three-pointers on back-to-back trips down the floor to round out a 13-3 spurt that wilted the Bruin lead down to single digits (72-63) with 7:31 remaining.
UT Martin’s deficit remained at nine points with under five minutes to play but ultimately the Skyhawks ran out of gas, managing only four points in the final 6:36.
UT Martin continues its trip through Music City when it takes on OVC foe Tennessee State on Saturday, Jan. 7. Tipoff time from the Gentry Center is set for 7:30 p.m.
Photo courtesy of Matt Maxey