MURRAY, Ky. – The University of Tennessee at Martin men’s basketball team started out strong but Murray State was able to defend its home court in a 94-86 Skyhawk loss at the CFSB Center this evening.
UT Martin (15-9, 5-4 Ohio Valley Conference) opened up a seven-point lead in the first five-plus minutes but Murray State managed a slim 49-46 halftime advantage. After the Racers led by 19 points with 7:02 to play, the Skyhawks made a late push to close within seven points with just under three minutes remaining before Murray State held on.
Jacolby Mobley led UT Martin in scoring for the fifth consecutive game tonight, accumulating 26 points while making a career-high seven 3-pointers. Javier Martinez (18 points on 9-of-10 shooting, nine rebounds) and Kedar Edwards (11 points, nine rebounds, seven assists) narrowly missed out on double-doubles while Matthew Butler added 11 points. Fatodd Lewis and Dante Bailey each scored eight points apiece off the bench for the Skyhawks.
Murray State (12-11, 6-3 OVC) was led by Terrell Miller’s 30 points while Damarcus Croaker chalked up 23 points. Jonathan Stark tallied 13 points and 10 assists while Bryce Jones secured 13 points for the Racers.
“We had a lead for a majority of the first half and we relinquished that lead towards the four-minute mark and the momentum started to swing,” UT Martin head coach Anthony Stewart said. “That snowballed into the second half and we came out a little slow. Murray State played energetic and drove the ball well on our defense. We fought back and had our opportunities but you can’t dig yourself into a 19-point hole against anyone, much less a good Murray State team at home.”
Mobley got the offense going early, canning a pair of three-pointers from the left wing to even the score at 8-all. Murray State led by a 12-10 margin before the Skyhawks unleashed a 9-0 run, as a Butler take to the hoop at the 14:36 mark provided UT Martin with a 19-12 lead.
The Racers responded with six straight points before Edwards rose up for a deep three-pointer to make the score 22-18 with 12:20 to go in the first half. Edwards dished out assists on the Skyhawks’ next two buckets to help UT Martin claim a seven-point lead.
Lewis came in and provided the Skyhawks with energy off the bench, scoring six of UT Martin’s 11 points during a four-minute span. His layup from the left block padded the Skyhawk lead to 37-33 but Murray State came back with a 10-0 run to go ahead by six points.
Martinez accounted for three buckets in the final 2:44 before Mobley swished a 70-foot heave just before the halftime buzzer to trim UT Martin’s deficit to 49-46 at the break.
UT Martin shot 64.5 percent (20-of-31) in the first half and was paced by Mobley (13 points) and Martinez (12 points). Croaker scored 12 points and Miller chipped in 11 points in the opening stanza for the Racers.
Murray State recorded the first five points of the second half on its way to taking its first double-digit lead of the game (60-50) with 16:31 remaining. A backdown eight-foot jumper by Lewis temporarily halted the Racer momentum but a 7-0 Murray State run resulted in a 69-54 Skyhawk deficit.
Mobley answered with a three-pointer from the right wing and pitched in a four-point play three minutes later to pull UT Martin within 10 points (76-66) at the 9:48 mark.
Miller pieced together seven straight points in the span of 80 seconds, as his two free throws opened up the biggest lead of the night for the Racers (87-68) with a little over seven minutes to go.
UT Martin made a late charge, holding Murray State scoreless for 4:23 after Miller’s free throws. During that span, the Skyhawks scored 12 unanswered points, as a Bailey steal and fast break layup made the score 87-80 with 2:49 left to play.
Bailey knocked down a three-pointer from the left wing to keep UT Martin within seven points with less than two minutes to go but ultimately that was as close as the Skyhawks would get the rest of the way.
UT Martin rounds out a three-game road stretch on Wednesday, Feb. 1 when it travels to in-state OVC rival Tennessee Tech. Tipoff from the Eblen Center in Cookeville is set for 7:30 p.m.