MARTIN, Tenn. – The University of Tennessee at Martin women’s basketball team played its third overtime contest in its last four games on Saturday before ultimately falling just short in a 70-68 loss to Ohio Valley Conference rival SIUE.
After trailing for much of the contest, UT Martin made a valiant effort in the final minutes of regulation. With the game in the balance and the squad trailing by three points with 0.9 seconds to play, a three-pointer by Ashton Feldhaus at the buzzer would give the Skyhawks new life and force overtime. The dramatics would not be reserved to just regulation as neither team led by more than two points in the extra period before a pair of free throws by SIUE’s Donshell Beck would not be equalized on the Skyhawks final shot attempt.
The Skyhawks (4-16, 1-6 OVC) struggled from the field throughout the contest, shooting just 35.8 percent while simultaneously losing the battle of the boards by 12. Despite the team’s rough shooting evening, the play of Skyhawk duo Kendall Spray and Feldhaus proved integral once again. After ranking as the team’s leading scorer earlier in the week, Spray continued her strong play of late by scoring a game-high 23 points while tallying five rebounds. Feldhaus joined in the action with 18 points – including a key pair of three-pointers at the end of the first half and regulation.
“It was another tough one and we just aren’t ready to win these types of games,” said UT Martin head coach Kevin McMillan. “We need someone to be a playmaker and right now we just have too many moving parts. We are too dependent on each other and just haven’t been able to figure things out yet. Until we do, we have to play every possession with ultimate effort. I give them credit for battling though because there were several times where we could have laid down, but in the end it just wasn’t good enough.”
SIUE (7-13, 3-4 OVC) posted its second consecutive win via late game heroics. Lauren White paced the Cougars with 17 points on the evening while Beck posted a double-double with 16 points – including the game-winning free throws - and 15 rebounds. Sydney Bauman capped off the Cougars top performers with 10 points and five blocks.
The game would start with the lead going back and forth throughout the period. In the first quarter alone, the game saw the lead change hands on seven different occasions along with four ties. With the tight contest, a layup in the final seconds by White would give SIUE a 14-13 advantage heading into the second.
The second quarter would follow a similar script despite the lead never changing hands. SIUE would push its advantage out to as high as eight points after starting the quarter on a 7-0 run with points coming from three different Cougars. The Skyhawks would respond with a run of their own in the final minutes of the half, trimming the team’s deficit back down to three points at the half following a buzzer-beater trifecta by Feldhaus on the quarter’s final play.
SIUE would open the third quarter on another small 6-0 run, pushing its margin back out to seven points in the first 44 seconds. UT Martin would trim the deficit back down to two points in the final minutes after holding SIUE without a field goal for over seven and a half minutes. At the end of the third quarter, SIUE would still cling to a 45-43 advantage.
UT Martin would finally take its first lead in the contest since the first quarter on the Skyhawks first possession as Spray knocked down a three-pointer. The rest of the quarter would be a tale of ties as the game would be tied five times in the fourth period alone. No bucket in the fourth quarter would prove bigger than the final shot itself. With the Skyhawks trailing by three points with 0.9 seconds to play, Ansley Eubank would find Feldhaus open off an inbound pass for a three-pointer to force overtime at the buzzer.
With the game tied once again at 62-all heading into the Skyhawks third overtime period in four games, both teams were looking for breathing room. SIUE would push its lead out to as much as three points in the final period before watching the game become tied for the 10th and ultimately final time. With just 27 seconds to play, Beck would look to seal the game with a pair of free throws to give the Cougars a two-point cushion. The Skyhawks would look for the game-winner once again off the hand of Feldhaus with two seconds on the clock, but the attempt would rattle off the front to seal the team’s sixth straight loss.
UT Martin will return to action with a home contest against OVC foe Austin Peay on Wednesday, Jan. 25. Tipoff from the Elam Center is scheduled for 6 p.m.