SKYHAWK MEN'S BASKETBALL BATTLES BUT FALLS 65-58 TO BELMONT
MARTIN, Tenn. – The University of Tennessee at Martin men’s basketball team traded blows with two-time defending Ohio Valley Conference regular season champion Belmont through 40 minutes this evening but the visiting Bruins snuck away with a 65-58 win at the Kathleen and Tom Elam Center.
The Skyhawks (6-9, 1-1 OVC) used a 10-0 run midway through the second half to even the score at 51-all with seven minutes to play in the contest. However, Belmont scored eight of the next nine points over the next four-plus minutes on its way to the win.
Four different UT Martin players scored in double-figures tonight, led by Jailen Gill’s 15 points and game-high three blocks. Matthew Butler chipped in 13 points while Fatodd Lewis (team-high seven rebounds) and Darius Thompson each provided 10 points apiece for the Skyhawks, who committed only five turnovers for the game.
Belmont (10-5, 2-0 OVC) was led by Austin Luke’s double-double of 19 points and 10 assists. Amanze Egekeze accounted for 14 points while Dylan Windler added 13 points for a Bruin squad that was held to 29.4 percent shooting (10-of-34) from three-point range.
“We battled – I’m proud of the grit that we showed and the wherewithal to come back when we got down by 10 points,” UT Martin head coach Anthony Stewart said. “The difference in the game was our execution down the stretch. After we tied it up at 51-51, there were a couple of key plays down on the offensive end where we didn’t get the shot that we really wanted and we probably could have gotten a better quality shot. You just can’t give an excellent Belmont team that much of a cushion.”
The Bruins scored seven of the first nine points of the game before Gill helped the Skyhawks shake off a slow start. The junior forward out of Kansas City, Mo. piled up eight of UT Martin’s first 10 points of the game while Lewis connected on a three-pointer to tie things up at 13-all midway through the opening half.
Mike Fofana sank a leaner in the paint at the 9:07 mark to give the Skyhawks their first lead of the contest. Delfincko Bogan drained a trifecta on UT Martin’s next trip down the floor to make the score 18-14 in favor of the Skyhawks.
Belmont soon unreeled an 8-0 run but Butler found a rhythm for UT Martin, tallying nine points in the span of 2:30 to help the Skyhawks close within a single possession. Belmont would tack on three more points over the final 24 seconds of the half to take a 34-29 advantage at the break.
Butler’s nine points were a team-high for UT Martin at the half while Luke’s 13 points guided the Bruins.
Thompson was responsible for eight of the Skyhawks’ first 10 points of the second half, as his three-pointer at the 13:57 mark helped keep UT Martin within five points at 44-39.
Belmont was able to stretch its advantage out to double-digits with 11:39 remaining but the Skyhawks continued to scrap. Gill (layup), Bogan (three-pointer), Lewis (three-pointer) and Butler (layup) each scored during UT Martin’s 10-0 surge that resulted in a tie ballgame with 7:08 left on the clock.
The Bruins hit back-to-back three-pointers on their next two scoring possessions while the Skyhawks were held without a field goal for the next 5:37. A Lewis jumper in the paint sliced UT Martin’s deficit to 61-56 with 1:31 to go but five points was as close as the Skyhawks would get the rest of the way.
UT Martin plays its second nationally televised game in an eight-day span when they head to in-state OVC foe Austin Peay on Thursday, Jan. 4. Tipoff from the Dunn Center in Clarksville is set for 6 p.m. on CBS Sports Network.