November 11, 2016

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OXFORD, Miss. – The University of Tennessee at Martin men’s basketball team matched Southeastern Conference opponent Ole Miss blow-for-blow tonight but the Rebels escaped by an 86-83 margin in the 2016-17 season opener for both squads.

UT Martin held a 42-39 halftime lead and trailed by just a single point with 49 seconds to go but couldn’t convert on four chances to win or extend the game to overtime.

Matthew Butler had a remarkable debut for the Skyhawks, pouring in a game-high 25 points. Playing approximately 85 miles from his hometown of Memphis, Tenn., the transfer from Rhode Island knocked down seven trifectas and also dished out three assists in 38 minutes for UT Martin.

Jacolby Mobley (17 points) and Kedar Edwards (13 points, seven rebounds, game-high five assists) also reached double-figures in the scoring column for the Skyhawks. Chandler Rowe had nine points and three steals while Javier Martinez (nine points, seven rebounds) and Fatodd Lewis (eight points, three steals) also heavily contributed to UT Martin’s near-upset.

Coming off a 20-win season, Ole Miss was led by Deandre Burnett’s 23 points. Terence Davis (19 points), Rasheed Brooks (12 points) and Cullen Neal (10 points) also paced the Rebels, who shot an even 50 percent in the second half.

“We were really resilient tonight,” said Skyhawk head coach Anthony Stewart, who was also making his collegiate debut as a head coach this evening. “We got behind the eight-ball a little bit in the second half but we stayed together and kept chipping away. I’m not one for moral victories but I’m proud of my guys and my coaching staff – they put together a great gameplan and it worked to a tee. We just have to keep our emotions in check down the stretch – emotions lost us this game today so we need to learn from it and be better for it.”

Edwards got the Skyhawks off on the right foot, scoring the first two buckets of the game to give UT Martin an early 4-0 edge. Butler and Rowe soon added points to push the Skyhawk advantage out to 9-4 but Ole Miss took its first lead soon thereafter at 10-9.

A jumper by Martinez and an Edwards trifecta on back-to-back possessions tilted the score back in favor of UT Martin at 26-22 with 8:32 remaining in the first half. Lewis sank a jumper to pad the Skyhawk lead to 33-26 before a Mobley layup resulted in UT Martin’s biggest lead of the night (42-33) at the 2:30 mark.

The Rebels then closed out the half with six unanswered points but the Skyhawks still took a three-point lead into the break.

Edwards’ nine points led a balanced scoring attack for UT Martin in the opening 20 minutes, as six Skyhawks had between six and nine points. UT Martin shot 50 percent (15-of-30) in the first half while Ole Miss was paced by Burnett’s 12 points.

Ole Miss began the second half on an 8-0 spurt, taking a 47-42 advantage in the process. A Mobley three-pointer at the 15:53 mark pulled UT Martin within one point but a 9-2 Rebel run over a span of 3:15 gave Ole Miss a 60-52 edge with 12:26 left to play.

The Skyhawk deficit stood at 11 points (74-63) with under five minutes remaining but UT Martin rode the hot hand of Butler to get back in the game. The redshirt junior sharpshooter canned a trio of three-pointers in a stretch of 1:35 while Mobley added three free throws to make the score 76-75 with 2:15 to go.

Ole Miss was able to maintain a six-point lead with a minute left but the Skyhawks had another late charge in them. Dante Bailey stepped up and made two big free throws and after UT Martin forced a turnover, Butler swished another three-pointer at the 49-second mark to trim the Skyhawk deficit to 84-83.

Rowe forced a steal but UT Martin’s three-point attempt on the ensuing possession rimmed out. Another Rebel turnover then took place but the Skyhawks could not convert their next chance. Burnett made a pair of free throws with 10 ticks left and UT Martin had two more chances to send the contest into overtime but a pair of shots from beyond the three-point arc barely missed the mark.

The Skyhawks hold their 2016-17 home opener this Sunday, Nov. 13 when they play host to the UT Rio Grande Valley Vaqueros. Tipoff time from the Kathleen and Tom Elam Center is set for 2 p.m.

Photo by Petre Thomas/Ole Miss Athletics

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