MARTIN, Tenn. – The University of Tennessee at Martin women’s basketball team made the most out of its first appearance in the prestigious Preseason Women’s National Invitational Tournament with a first round victory over Georgia State, 84-80, at the Kathleen and Tom Elam Center on Friday evening.
The season opening victory for the Skyhawks advances them to the second round of the WNIT, which find them making the 2,000 mile trek across the country to Gonzaga for a Sunday matchup.
In a game which saw 14 lead changes and a game-high six point lead for both teams diminish, it was the Skyhawks who came out victorious in the waning minutes of action. Both teams shot a blistering percentage from the floor, shooting over 48 percent each.
Senior guard Jasmine Newsome picked up right where she left off last season, scoring 24 points to go with a career-high 12 assists. Newsome led a cast of five Skyhawks who tallied double figures in the scoring column. Classmate Heather Butler tallied 14 points on the night while freshman Elizabeth Masengil made an impressive debut with 14 points, seven rebounds and four assists.
Sophomore Katie Schubert tallied 11 points, including three three-point field goals while newcomer Chelsea Roberts finished with 10 points and eight rebounds. Freshman Tiara Caldwell tossed in an impressive game-high 10 rebounds while scoring nine points of her own.
Georgia State was led by three players in double figures. Kendra Long paced the Panthers with 20 points. Gaby Moss and Alisha Andrews tallied 16 and 14 points, respectively. As a team, Georgia State tallied a school-record 11 three-point field goals on the evening.
“We did some things that we had to do to win,” said UT Martin women’s basketball coach Kevin McMillan. “I’ve been worried about if we would be able to win some games while we learn, and we were fortunate to do that tonight. I think the pieces are here, we just have to get it focused on getting it to work on the floor.”
“If you told me that we’re going to get 33 points and 25 points out of newcomers in a big game, the opening night of the WNIT, you’re going to take it every time. If we could get that kind of production every night, we have a chance to be special. I think what Chelsea Roberts, Elizabeth Masengil and Tiara Caldwell brought to the table was figuring out how to get stuff that we haven’t been able to get in the past. This is an extremely young team and we’ll take every single one that we can get before January.”
Lost in the evening’s victory was the continuation of Butler’s NCAA three-point record. Butler went 0-for-5 from beyond the arc, snapping her NCAA record with 80 consecutive games with a three-point field goal. Tonight’s game marked just the second time in her career that the senior has not made a three-pointer and first since Jan. 15, 2011, her freshman season.
With the victory the Skyhawks remain in the winner’s bracket of the WNIT. UT Martin will matchup with West Coast Conference power Gonzaga on Sunday, Nov. 10. Tip-off from Spokane, Wash. is scheduled for 4 p.m. local time.