NASHVILLE, Tenn. -The University of Tennessee at Martin women's basketball team is going dancing again. The Skyhawks earned the Ohio Valley Conference's automatic berth into the NCAA Tournament with an exhilirating 87-80 overtime victory over Tennessee Tech in the league championship at Municial Auditorium.
The win was the third straight OVC Tournament championship for UT Martin (19-14) under head coach Kevin McMillan. The Skyhawks will find out their opponent and location in the NCAA Tournament next Monday, March 18.
Junior guard Jasmine Newsome poured in 34 points - including a game-tying layup with two seconds remaining in regulation to force overtime - on her way to OVC Tournament Most Valuable Player honors. The Millington native set the all-time OVC tournament record for scoring over three games (98) and also registered seven assists and four steals in 45 minutes.
Heather Butler scored 24 points, while Rickiesha Bryant notched yet another double-double with a career-high 20 points (on 8-for-8 shooting) and 12 rebounds. Both Butler and Bryant joined Newsome on the All-OVC Tournament team.
"It's no secret Jasmine made the play to put us into overtime and then that seemed to give us a little energy," McMillan said. "It looked like it took a little life out of Tennessee Tech. That was a great effort by our kids to make plays, especially after playing three games in three days."
Tennessee Tech (19-12) was led by 19 points out of Jala Harris. Lashay Davis (15 points), Diamond Henderson (14), Molly Heady (12) and Kylie Cook (11) also cracked double-figures in the scoring column for the Golden Eagles.
The Skyhawks accounted for the first five points of the game but there were eight lead changes and four ties in the first half. UT Martin led for the final six minutes of the half, breaking a 23-23 tie when Newsome converted a tough old-fashioned three-point play.
Five straight points by Butler in a span of 31 seconds led to an eight-point Skyhawk advantage (37-29) with 2:08 to play before the halftime break. That started a streak where Butler scored 11 of UT Martin's final 13 points of the first half, as the Skyhawks held a 45-38 lead going into the locker room.
Butler (18 points) and Newsome (15) led UT Martin at the half, while Henderson's 10 points led the Golden Eagles in the first 20 minutes.
Newsome started the second half off with a layup at the 19:31 to put the Skyhawks on top by a 47-38 margin. However, Tennessee Tech would soon get within one point at the 12:59 mark but back-to-back layups by Bryant pushed UT Martin's lead back out to seven with 8:09 to play.
Three 3-pointers by Harris in a span of 2:38 evened the score with 5:10 remaining in regulation. Another Tennessee Tech three-pointer at the 4:04 mark put the Golden Eagles on top for the first time since the 10:28 mark of the first half.
Chelsey Hall hit two free throws with 12 seconds to go to pull the Skyhawks within one and on the other end, Tennessee Tech made one of two free throws to make the score 73-71. With nine seconds left, Newsome drove coast-to-coast for a layup with two seconds left to send the game into overtime.
Bryant was responsible for the first five points in overtime, including a huge old-fashioned three-point play with 1:52 to go. After Tennessee Tech cut the lead to three points, Newsome drained a long three-pointer to make the score 81-75. Butler (four free throws made) and Newsome (two) combined to go 6-for-6 from the charity stripe in the final 19 seconds.