ST. LOUIS, Mo. – The University of Tennessee at Martin men’s basketball team received a game-high 20 points out of Myles Taylor this evening, but Saint Louis made a run late in the first half and the Skyhawks couldn’t recover in a 73-51 loss at Chaifetz Arena.
Taylor showed out in the first half, accounting for 15 of UT Martin’s first 18 points through the first 12:12 of the contest. The sophomore out of Little Rock, Ark. concluded his night with 20 points on 8-of-14 shooting – his eighth career 20-plus point outing.
“Myles was ready to play today and that was obvious early,” said UT Martin head coach Jason James, who was coaching in his hometown tonight. “When he’s ready to play and he’s engaged, he’s pretty good. He’s a hard guard at any level because he’s versatile and he has good feet and good hands. He’s getting better as we speak.”
Mike Liabo added nine points tonight for UT Martin (3-8), while Jeremy Washington hauled in a team-best six rebounds in his first action since Nov. 16 at Arkansas State.
Jordair Jett’s 17 points led the way for Saint Louis (6-3), the Atlantic 10 powerhouse who advanced to the third round of last year’s NCAA Tournament. Mike McCall, Jr. also tossed in 14 points for the Billikens.
“We did some good things tonight but I thought we hurt ourselves with unforced errors,” James said. “There were a couple times where we had guys who were trying to make a play that wasn’t there. You can’t go down big against a team like Saint Louis. They won’t let you back in the game because they don’t make mistakes.”
A BJ McLaughlin bucket inside gave UT Martin a 6-4 advantage at the 17:47 mark. The Skyhawks were within one possession of the Billikens in the first four minutes of the game before a 9-0 Saint Louis run took place to make the score 18-8 at the 12:28 mark.
A Taylor turnaround jumper at the 11:33 mark got the UT Martin offense going again, as Taylor would later reel off seven straight points for the Skyhawks to keep their deficit within single-digits.
Saint Louis went on a 15-5 run down the stretch of the first half before Justin Childs knocked down a three-pointer with 38 seconds left in the first half. The Billikens answered with a basket on the final possession of the half to take a 45-28 halftime lead.
Taylor’s 15 points led all scorers at the half, while McCall, Jr.’s 11 points paced Saint Louis in the first stanza.
A Taylor jumper with 18:14 to play sliced the Skyhawk deficit to 46-30, but Saint Louis responded with seven of the next eight points to lead by 22 with just under 15 minutes left.
Both teams traded baskets over the next eight minutes until UT Martin went on a 6-2 spurt to make the score 65-45 with 5:24 remaining. The Skyhawks would get within 20 points on two more occasions but that was ultimately as close as they would get the rest of the way.
UT Martin will play in front of the home crowd for the first time in 18 days when it takes on former Ohio Valley Conference foe Samford at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, Dec. 19. Skyhawk fans can get in free and earn a chance to win an iPad mini if they bring a new unwrapped toy or wear a tacky Christmas sweater.
Photo courtesy of Danny Reise