NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The University of Tennessee at Martin men’s basketball team fell short in its quest for the Ohio Valley Conference Basketball Championship for the second consecutive year after falling to Jacksonville State 66-55 on Saturday night.
The Skyhawks (21-12) struggled offensively, tallying a season-low 55 points while shooting 35.2 percent (19-of-54) from the floor. UT Martin made its first three-point attempt of the evening but missed its next 12 shots from three-point land, finishing at 20 percent shooting (3-for-15) from beyond the arc.
Jacolby Mobley battled sickness but still managed a game-high 18 points for the Skyhawks. Matthew Butler added 17 points while Javier Martinez (13 points, 11 rebounds) consumed his 13th double-double of the season.
Following the game, Butler was named to the five-man All-OVC Tournament team. The junior guard out of Memphis, Tenn. averaged 17.0 points per game while logging all 80 minutes in UT Martin’s two contests.
Jacksonville State (20-14) received 17 points out of Erik Durham while Greg Tucker (14 points) and Malcolm Drumwright (13 points) each scored in double-figures.
“Jacksonville State played a great game tonight,” Skyhawk head coach Anthony Stewart said. “Unfortunately, we just couldn’t get our shots to drop. We had 20 offensive rebounds but we just couldn’t get those putbacks like we normally get. I’m obviously disappointed but life goes on – the sun is coming up in the morning. I have a great group of guys who have come a long way in their lives. I have five seniors that are going to graduate. We are building something here – Skyhawk basketball is on the rise.”
The game would start out with a slow pace as both teams struggled to get much going through the opening 10 minutes of play. Midway through the first half, both teams had combined for just 22 points as Jacksonville State held a 13-9 advantage. The Gamecocks would hold the upper hand however, pushing their margin out to nine points just prior to the under-eight media timeout.
Following the run by Gamecocks, the Skyhawks would counter with a run of their own, stringing together six consecutive points to trim the deficit down to just three points. Despite the brief rally, JSU would charge back again with a 6-0 run of its own to push the margin back to nine before an and-one layup by Mobley with just under four minutes to play in the first half made it a 26-20 score.
Jacksonville State would break loose in the final four minutes of play, pushing the team’s margin out to as high as 13 points. The Gamecocks would hold the Skyhawks scoreless over the final three minutes of the first half to ride a 10-3 lead heading into halftime. At the break JSU would hold a 36-23 lead.
UT Martin would come out in the second half looking to tie its biggest comeback victory of the season in the most critical game. Facing a 14-point deficit, the Skyhawks would string together an 8-0 run over seven minutes to cut the margin back down to six points. Following the run by the Skyhawks, JSU would hold tight by holding a 42-33 lead with 10:34 to play in the contest.
The lead would continue to hang around double figures while the Skyhawks posted a stretch of nearly five minutes without a field goal. With the struggles from the floor, UT Martin would head to the final media timeout trailing by 12 with 3:53 to play.
UT Martin would trim the deficit to nine points in the final minutes following a three-pointer by Mobley which snapped nearly an eight-minute stretch without a field goal. The Skyhawks would only get as close as nine points down the stretch as Jacksonville State punched its first trip to the NCAA Tournament in program history by a final score of 66-55.
The Skyhawks will now await to see if they will receive an invitation to a postseason tournament for the third consecutive season.