MARTIN, Tenn. – The University of Tennessee at Martin men’s basketball team jumped out to a fast start tonight against Morehead State, but the Skyhawks fell 88-74 at the Kathleen and Tom Elam Center this evening.
Both Terence Smith and Mike Liabo poured in 19 points to lead UT Martin (4-15, 1-6 Ohio Valley Conference). Liabo tied a career-high with five 3-pointers for the fifth time this season, while Smith sank a career-best four trifectas in five attempts to finish just one point shy of his career-high set back in 2011.
Myles Taylor compiled 13 points with a game-high eight rebounds and DeMarc Richardson handed out a team-high four assists for the Skyhawks, who set a season-high in free throws made (28) while outrebounding Morehead State 36-33. The Eagles entered the contest as the OVC leader in rebounding (38.2 per game) and rebounding margin (+5.4).
Morehead State (10-10, 4-2 OVC) saw four players reach double-figures, led by Kahlil Owens’ 16 points. Bakari Turner scored 14 points, Devon Atkinson compiled a double-double (12 points, 12 assists) and Milton Chavis tallied 11 points to pace the Eagles.
“I thought we competed for about 32 minutes today,” Skyhawk head coach Jason James said. “We went through about an eight minute stretch where we just didn’t execute. We weren’t making any shots and we became offensive sensitive. When we weren’t making shots, we weren’t getting back to the other end and they were able to get some easy shots and get themselves going. The eight minute stretch is what got us and was the difference in the ballgame.”
Smith ignited an early run for the Skyhawks – scoring the team’s first seven points, allowing UT Martin to take a 7-2 lead a little over five minutes into the contest. A layup by Childs at the 11:23 mark extended the Skyhawk advantage out to 14-6.
Morehead State immediately answered with a 14-0 run over a span of 4:10 to go ahead by six points with just under seven minutes to play in the first half. UT Martin would claw back within three points on three more occasions before the Eagles closed out the half on a 13-4 run.
Smith’s eight points led the Skyhawks at the break, while Chavis’ nine points paced Morehead State, who led 39-27 at the half.
The Eagles started the second half on a 13-1 run, taking a 52-28 lead at the first media timeout. The margin was 24 points seven minutes into the second half before the Skyhawks unleashed a run of their own, as back-to-back treys by Liabo and Richardson keyed a 13-3 run that made the score 61-47 with 10:49 remaining.
A trio of three-pointers by Liabo in a span of 1:59 began a 11-4 run that sliced UT Martin’s deficit to 70-59 with seven minutes to play. Smith would wrap up his evening with three 3-pointers over the final 2:49, but the Skyhawks wouldn’t get any closer than 11 points the rest of the way.
UT Martin now goes on the road for its next two contests before hosting a crucial four-game homestand. The Skyhawks will continue their OVC slate by traveling to Eastern Illinois on Thursday, Jan. 24 before heading to SIU Edwardsville on Saturday, Jan. 26.