UT MARTIN WOMEN'S HOOPS DROPS HEARTBREAKING CONTEST TO BELMONT 65-63
MARTIN, Tenn. – The University of Tennessee at Martin women’s basketball team led the defending Ohio Valley Conference champion Belmont for over 38 minutes of today’s contest, but it was the final minute which proved costly as the Skyhawks dropped the 65-63 decision.
After trailing for the entire contest, Belmont took its first and only lead of the contest on a jumper by Darby Maggard with 47 seconds left which proved to be the difference in the game. UT Martin would have a pair of chances to tie or take the lead in the contest in the game’s final 18 seconds but both a three-pointer by Chelsey Perry and a putback attempt by Kendall Spray would fall short at the buzzer.
The Skyhawks (5-9, 1-1 OVC) would lead by as much as 12 points due in large part to 11 made three-pointers – including nine in the opening 20 minutes of action. Three different players would score in double figures, highlighted by junior guard Emanye Robertson who scored a game-high 19 points while tallying four assists and a pair of steals. Meanwhile the underclassmen duo of Perry and Spray would tally 14 points each.
“It is tough when you lead for over 38 minutes of the contest and can’t find a way to close it out at home,” said UT Martin head coach Kevin McMillan. “This game mirrored a lot of our trip to Purdue where we led in every contest late in the game, but just could not come away with a victory. I think it is fair to say that we simply out-played Belmont for much of the game but it doesn’t matter if you can’t close it out or make open shots down the stretch.”
Belmont (12-3, 2-0 OVC) notched its 21st consecutive regular season victory against an OVC opponent dating back to the 2015-16 season while snapping a three-game losing streak inside the Elam Center. Senior forward Sally McCabe would overcome foul trouble to tally 18 points and 12 rebounds to pace the Bruins. The guard duo of Maggard (14 points) and Sierra Jones (10 points) would also score in double figures for the Belmont.
UT Martin would come out aggressive in the first quarter, knocking down the first two buckets of the contest. Belmont would answer back however, tying the contest twice in the first quarter while never cracking through to take a lead. After the score was tied for the second time at 8-8, the Skyhawks would outscore the Bruins 14-7 over the final five minutes of play. With the nice run, UT Martin would take a 22-15 lead into the second behind 10 first quarter points by Perry alone.
Both teams would exchange blows in the opening minutes of the second quarter before a key 6-0 run by the Skyhawks held the Bruins scoreless for nearly three minutes of action. The Skyhawks would push the home team’s advantage out to as high as 12 points with just under five minutes to play following a three-pointer by Maddie Waldrop. Belmont would continue to fight though, stringing together a 9-0 run of their own over the final three minutes to trim the deficit to 35-32 heading into halftime.
The Skyhawks came out of intermission looking to stretch their lead back out with a 7-0 run resulting in a Belmont timeout just three minutes into the period. Belmont responded by cutting the margin back down to a single point following a jumper by Maggard with 69 seconds left to play in the quarter. The Skyhawks would ultimately push the lead back out to two possessions with a jumper by Janekia Mason to give the team a 54-50 lead after three.
Belmont finally closed the gap late in the fourth quarter, taking its first lead of the game at 64-63 with 47 seconds to play off a jumper by Maggard. The Bruins would key the comeback with an 8-0 run to take a two-point advantage prior to the Skyhawks final possession of the contest. Trailing by two points, the Skyhawks came out of the timeout with 18.6 seconds to play but two shot attempts would fall short as the Bruins escaped with a 65-63 victory.
UT Martin will return to action on Wednesday, Jan. 3 at Austin Peay. Tipoff from the Dunn Center is scheduled for 7 p.m.