WOMEN'S HOOPS CLINCHES PROGRAM'S SECOND OUTRIGHT OVC CHAMPIONSHIP WITH 84-67 VICTORY OVER MURRAY STATE
MARTIN, Tenn. – The University of Tennessee at Martin women’s basketball secured the program’s second outright Ohio Valley Conference regular-season championship with the 84-67 victory over Murray State on Saturday afternoon.
The Skyhawks (20-7, 13-1) became just the sixth team in the program’s 45 year history to reach 20 wins, including the third occasion in the past four years. UT Martin used a solid mixture of a potent offensive attack, along with forcing 25 turnovers on the night, to secure the victory over the rival Racers.
Three players scored in double figures, led by the play of senior Heather Butler who tallied 29 points, moving into 24th on the NCAA’s all-time scoring list. Reigning OVC Player and Freshman of the Week, Ashia Jones tallied her fourth double-double of the season with 20 points and 11 rebounds. Jones has stretched her double figure scoring streak to 12 consecutive games, while scoring 20 points or more in four straight contests. Jasmine Newsome tallied 19 points on the afternoon to go with 10 assists and seven steals, securing her second consecutive double-double and fourth of the season.
“I thought we came out to play very focused on both ends of the court,” said women’s basketball coach Kevin McMillan. “Our intensity in the first 30 minutes of the game was strong, but once again when we went to the bench our intensity began to drop. We had an impressive crowd this afternoon, and I wish we could have just kept them in the game in the last couple minutes but our play fell off. Overall, I’m extremely proud that we are just the second team in program history to win an outright championship.”
Murray State (10-16, 3-11 OVC) placed a trio of its own in double figures, led by the play of Taylor Porter who tossed in 14 points. Bianca Babic and Netanya Jackson each scored in double figures for the Racers, tossing in 13 and 10 points, respectively.
UT Martin got on the board first, busting out to a quick 14-0 run before the Racers scored their first basket to round out the first four minutes. Newsome scored the first five points of the game before the rest of the Skyhawks got involved, outscoring the Racers 14-2 over the span.
The Racers would respond by outscoring the Skyhawks 9-7 during the following stretch. Porter led the way for the Racers, scoring four points during the mini run. Jones paced the Skyhawks, picking up three points during the span while both Butler and Newsome knocked down field goals of their own.
The Skyhawks would cling to a 27-16 lead at the 7:50 media break as three players scored field goals over the previous four minute span. The next four minutes would separate the home team from the crowd, putting together a 15-6 run to stretch their lead out to 23 at the 4:28 mark of the first. The trio of Butler, Jones and Newsome would each reach double figures during the span.
UT Martin would close the first half on a 7-3 run to take a 49-25 lead into the locker room. Butler led all scorers with 18 points while Jasmine Newsome tallied 13 points and eight assists. Jones rounded out the trio with 11 points and nine rebounds. The Racers only placed one player in double figures in the opening half behind the play of Porter who tallied 13 points.
Both teams would come out of the break hot, combining for 29 points in the opening five minutes of play. The Skyhawks would outscore the Racers 19-10 during the span as Butler and Jones tallied eight points each to open the half while forcing Murray State into seven turnovers.
The Skyhawks would narrowly outscore the Racers on the ensuing media span, 7-5. Jones tallied her 20th point while notching her 11th rebound during the stretch, marking the fourth consecutive game in which she has reach the 20 point plateau. The Skyhawks would stretch their lead to as large as 36 at the 14:38 mark.
The Racers began to chip into the Skyhawk lead by putting together a 13-4 run over the course of five minutes. Both Babic and Jackson would reach double figures in the run, scoring eight of the team’s 13 points.
Murray State would end the game on a 14-5 run but could not overcome the early deficit at UT Martin picked up the 84-67 victory. With the victory the Skyhawks won the program’s second outright OVC regular-season championship.
UT Martin will return to action on Thursday, Feb. 27 when the Skyhawks complete the road portion of the schedule with a trip to Eastern Illinois. Tipoff from Lantz Arena is schedule for 7 p.m.