By KEVIN WEAKS
SIU-Edwardsville was exactly the right opponent — at exactly the right time.
Two weeks after breaking a four-game losing streak with one of its best overall efforts of the season, UT Martin used the Cougars to make sure another bad streak would not get started with yet another stellar game from start to finish.
The Skyhawks (7-17, 4-8 OVC) took the lead early in a 20-5 first-half run and never looked back in claiming a 77-68 win Saturday afternoon at the Elam Center.
It marked the third win in the last four games for the Skyhawks, who began the recent run of good fortune with a 65-62 win at SIU-E on Jan. 26.
Edwardsville is not a favorite foe of the Skyhawk women, however.
The Cougars completed a season sweep over the two-time defending OVC Tournament champions with a rough and hard-fought 66-63 win in the second game Saturday.
Just the opposite of the men, UTM’s women (11-14, 6-5 OVC) have now lost three of their last four games — a run that began as the men’s did at SIU-E in a 67-66 setback.
Both UT Martin teams close their current homestands (four for the men; three for the women) Saturday against SEMO.
UTM 77, SIU-E 68 (M)
The Skyhawks used one big run to grab a comfortable lead in the first half and another in the second half to finish off the Cougars.
Led by sophomore center Myles Taylor, who hit 5-of-6 field goals and 13-of-17 free throws for a game-high 23 points despite battling an illness that kept him out of Friday’s practice, UTM forged the game’s only lead change early in a 20-5 run in the first half.
Mike Liabo actually put UTM up, back-to-back 3-pointers leading to a 13-11 lead.
Taylor connected on four free throw tries, and then three consecutive steals led to transition dunks — two by Justin Childs and one by Taylor — followed by a pair of jumpers by Taylor had UTM holding a 27-16 lead with 5:30 to play in the first half.
“We were in that 2-2-1 and were kind of backing up to keep people in front of us,” UTM head coach Jason James said. “We saw a couple of opportunities where we could jump them and be more aggressive in it, and that was the difference in the run. We were able to get some steals and get to the other end. Then Myles got into the game. He started to get loose and get some sweat going, started feeling good about his game and made some shots.”
The Cougars were within 47-44 on a Jerome Jones trey at 15:10 of the second half.
UT Martin then put the game away with a 13-2 run, Terence Smith connecting twice from the floor and Dee Oldham scoring all four of his points for a 60-46 edge at 7:53. The lead was double digits until the final seven seconds.
“What was big in that is we were rebounding the ball,” James said. “We started to grab the ball and get back on the other end.”
Behind Taylor, who didn’t start because of the illness, Smith scored 16 points and Liabo added 15
SIU-E 66, UTM 63 (W)
Too many numbers went against the Skyhawk in the nightcap, allowing SIU-E to overcome a 12-point deficit in the second half despite connecting on only 26-of-70 shots (37.1 percent) and 9-of-17 free throws (52.9 percent).
The Cougars won the rebounding battle 47-31, including a wide 23-8 advantage on the offensive end.
Edwardsville, very physical on defense and deliberate on offense, outscored UTM 34-18 in the paint, 12-3 off turnovers and 16-5 on second chance shots.
“We probably should have done some things to speed the game up, but even with that, they shot 37 percent from the field,” UTM head coach Kevin McMillan said. “Our defense was good, but you have to rebound.”
Shelby Crawford’s layup at 15:34 of the first half finally put UTM on the board after SIU-E scored the game’s first eight points, but the Skyhawks fought back for a 16-14 lead on Heather Butler’s 3-pointer at 9:29.
Except for three ties, UT Martin led for the next 15 minutes, going up 28-25 at intermission on a Butler trey at the buzzer and then using three baskets by Katie Schubert, including a triple, to push the margin to 12 at 45-33 with 14:24 remaining in the game.
That proved to be the last run for the Skyhawks as SIU-E then outscored the home team 33-18 the rest of the way.
Butler had 18 points, Jasmine Newsome added 15 and Schubert scored 11 for UTM.
Berry topped four Cougars in double figures with 18.
Published in The Messenger 2.11.13