UT MARTIN ADVANCES TO OVC CHAMPIONSHIP GAME WITH 69-67 WIN OVER SIUE
March 2, 2018
EVANSVILLE, Ind. – Two free throws by freshman Chelsey Perry with 0.4 seconds on the clock would prove to be the difference for the University of Tennessee at Martin women’s basketball team, as the squad pulled out a thrilling 69-67 victory over SIUE in the Ohio Valley Conference Basketball Championship.
The No. 2 seeded Skyhawks (19-13) pulled out a gutsy victory against one of the team’s arch rivals. With the win, UT Martin advances to the OVC Basketball Championship title game for the sixth time in the past eight seasons while improving to 14-5 in tournament play under head coach Kevin McMillan.
Perry, an OVC All-Newcomer selection, paved the way for the Skyhawks’ success once again, scoring a game-high 22 points – including the game-winning free throws at the end of regulation - while tallying six rebounds, three steals and two assists. Junior guard Emanye Robertson ran the point guard position efficiently, tallying 15 points – including nine free throws – while notching seven rebounds, five assists and three steals to round out a strong statistical line. Senior All-OVC forward Ashton Feldhaus also contributed 14 points and six rebounds in the contest.
“Our kids battled today,” McMillan said. “The game wasn’t pretty. Everything was tough and hard to execute but our kids figured out a way to win. They did everything we asked them to do defensively and rebounded well. It was another gutsy performance with a crazy ending. I don’t know how they will be able to come back and compete in less than 24 hours, but you work all year to play for a championship and we will do our best to give ourselves a chance. We are ready to play for a championship. We might not be able to win it tomorrow, but I know we will compete.”
No. 3 seeded SIUE (17-14) saw its tournament run come to an end in the semifinal round for the fourth consecutive season. The Cougars were led in scoring by Jay’Nee Alston with a team-high 17 points while Allie Troeckler tallied 11 points.
The Cougars would jump out to an early lead as the Skyhawks struggled to find their offensive stroke. That shortage would be short-lived however as UT Martin strung together a 14-2 run out of the media timeout to assume control of the margin in the opening period. With the big run, the Skyhawks took a 20-15 advantage into the second.
The offense slowed to a snail’s pace for much of the second quarter as both teams combined to make just 4-of-20 field goal attempts in the period. SIUE would make the most of its opportunities from the free throw line however, going 7-of-7 in the quarter while outscoring UT Martin 12-8. The low scoring contest would go into halftime with the Skyhawks clinging to a narrow 28-27 advantage.
UT Martin found a bit of separation in the third quarter, notching its highest-scoring quarter of the afternoon with 24 points. The play of Perry and Robertson proved big for the Skyhawks as the duo combined to score 13 points. With the strong play in the segment, UT Martin took a 52-42 lead into the fourth.
SIUE would not go away quietly however, immediately cutting into the margin just nine seconds into the fourth. The Cougars would storm back, cutting the margin to one point on a pair of occasions before ultimately tying the game on a three-pointer by Bell with 12 seconds to play. With the game tied at 67 points apiece, the Skyhawks would drive down the floor before lobbing the ball to Perry which turned to go up right before the horn but would be fouled on the play, heading to the line with a chance to win the contest with 0.4 seconds to play. The freshman would be clutch in the contest, sinking both free throws to secure a 69-67 semifinal victory.
UT Martin now will turn its focus to No. 23 ranked Belmont for a chance at punching its ticket to a fifth NCAA Tournament appearance. The Skyhawks and Bruins will tipoff from the Ford Center at 2 p.m.