MARTIN, Tenn. – Despite trailing for over 30 minutes in the contest, a layup by Janekia Mason with 0.9 seconds to play in the contest proved to be the difference as the University of Tennessee at Martin women’s basketball team posted a thrilling 74-72 victory over Eastern Illinois on Wednesday night.
The Skyhawks (8-17, 5-7 OVC) picked up their fourth win in the last five games behind a balanced scoring effort to avenge an early conference overtime road loss at Eastern Illinois back in January. Four different players scored in double figures for UT Martin led by the play of four-time reigning OVC Newcomer of the Week Ashton Feldhaus who poured in 21 points and seven rebounds to lead the Skyhawks in both categories.
Sophomore Myah Taylor tossed in 17 points – including 13 in the second quarter alone – to rank second on the team while Mason tallied 12 points and six rebounds, including the game’s ultimate game-winner. Freshman Kendall Spray rounded out the Skyhawks in double figures with 11 points and five assists.
“I thought they outplayed us, winning almost every category but I give our kids credit because they figured out a way to win,” said UT Martin head coach Kevin McMillan. “We still weren’t very consistent, but they found a way. You see flashes of consistency. I just hope it’s enough to propel us where we are a factor. We could wake up tomorrow and figure this thing out and cause people some problems.”
Eastern Illinois (8-16, 4-8 OVC) dropped a hard-fought decision despite leading in the contest for over 30 minutes. The Panthers shot 53.7 percent from the field while outrebounding the Skyhawks by 10 on the boards. Junior Grace Lennox led all players on the evening with 25 points, 10 rebounds and five assists. Zharia Lenoir tossed in 18 points of her own while Allison Van Dyke chipped in 10 points and eight rebounds.
The Panthers would come out of the gates looking to make a statement, jumping out to an 8-2 run less than three minutes into the contest. The visitors would continue to inflate the margin down the stretch of the first quarter, taking a 23-12 lead into the second behind 11 points from Lennox.
Already in a sizable hole, UT Martin would look to get back into the contest quickly. The Skyhawks would quickly answer, scoring the first eight points of the quarter to trim the deficit down to just two points. The home squad would continue its strong quarter push by ultimately taking the lead and pushing the advantage out to six points with just under four minutes to play in the half. UT Martin would ultimately take a 35-33 lead into the break behind 13 second quarter points from Taylor.
After a free throw by Emanye Robertson to start the second half for the Skyhawks, Eastern Illinois would turn up the tempo to not only overcome the team’s deficit, but retake the lead due in large part to a 9-0 run in the quarter’s opening four minutes. The Panthers would control the pace and lead in the third, outscoring the Skyhawks 23-15 – behind another explosive 12-point period by Lennox. The visitors would push their lead out to as high as eight point before taking a 56-50 advantage into the final quarter of play.
The Skyhawks would eventually watch their deficit reach as high as 10 points in the opening minutes of the fourth quarter before starting their comeback attempt. Feldhaus would play a key role in the fourth, scoring nine of her team-high 21 points in the first five minutes of the quarter. The Skyhawks would feature a significant 9-0 run to retake an one-point lead with two minutes to play. A three-pointer by Van Dyke would briefly give EIU a two-point lead with just over a minute to play before Spray would score on a backdoor cut to tie the game at 72. With the game still tied with 3.6 seconds to go, Feldhaus would find a wide open Mason under the basket to put the Skyhawks up by two with 0.9 seconds to go, leading to the squad’s fourth win in its last five games.
UT Martin will return to action with a trip to OVC rival SIUE on Saturday, Feb. 11 to open a three-game road stretch. Tipoff from the Vadalabene Center is scheduled for 7 p.m.