MARTIN, Tenn. – Junior forward Myles Taylor netted 20 points off the bench in his season debut as the University of Tennessee at Martin men’s basketball team chalked up a 79-64 victory over Rochester College at the Kathleen and Tom Elam Center.
The game served as a “Character Counts” event for local elementary, middle and high school students who earned the chance to come to the game because of good behavior.
Taylor, who tore his ACL in the regular season finale last season and had previously missed the first three games in 2013-14, made nine of his 15 shot attempts in 20 minutes played. It was the 14th career game with at least 20 points for the Little Rock, Ark. native.
Marshun Newell went 10-for-10 from the free throw line and tallied 14 points, four rebounds, four assists and three steals for UT Martin (1-3). Terence Smith (13 points, team-high seven rebounds, three assists) and Bobby Jones (season-high 12 points) also reached double-figures in the scoring column for the Skyhawks, who battled back from a 33-30 halftime deficit by hitting 94.7 percent of their free throw attempts (18-for-19) in the final 20 minutes.
Rochester College (7-1) was led by Stavros Schizas’ 23 points and 10 rebounds. UT Martin limited the Warriors – the defending United States Collegiate Athletic Association Division-I national champions – to only 12.5 percent shooting from beyond the three-point arc (2-for-16) and forced them into 17 turnovers.
“I thought when we took the floor, our guys thought that they would lay down and by the time we woke up, we were down 10 points,” UT Martin head coach Jason James said. “We were able to get back in the game and go into the half down by three, which was a blessing. In the second half, our energy was better and we played with a little more urgency and desperation.”
Rochester College jumped out to a 6-2 lead at the first media timeout. After a pair of Newell free throws at the 14:16 mark, the Warriors would go on a 7-1 run to go on top by a 13-5 margin.
Taylor would check in for the first time all season at the 12:10 mark and his presence was immediately felt. He snared a rebound on his first defensive possession and followed that with a bucket in the paint on his first touch on the offensive end.
Four straight points by Tobias Dowdell cut the Skyhawk deficit to 15-11 with 8:34 to go before the break. However, a 12-5 run by Rochester College would soon follow and the Warriors held a 31-19 lead with 2:28 to play in the first half.
UT Martin then accounted for 11 of the final 13 points of the half, as Taylor scored the Skyhawks’ final nine points of the half to make the score 33-30 in Rochester College’s favor at the break.
Taylor’s 13 points in nine minutes led all scorers at the half while Schizas and Zef Deda each had nine points to lead the Warriors.
The Skyhawks began the second half on an 8-3 run, as a pair of free throws by Smith gave UT Martin its first lead of the contest (38-36) with 17:30 remaining.
After Schizas made a pair of free throws on Rochester College’s next possession, Jones converted a tough layup at the 16:38 mark to give UT Martin a lead it would not relinquish the rest of the way. Jones would score six of the Skyhawks’ eight points in a span of 2:30 to help UT Martin run its lead out to double-figures at 50-40 with 13 minutes to go.
The Warriors posted a 9-2 run to get within four points with just under eight minutes left but Taylor answered with an old-fashioned three-point play off an offensive rebound on the Skyhawks’ next possession.
Rochester College would get within five points at the 6:31 mark, back-to-back trifectas by Smith and Jones extended the Skyhawk lead out to a dozen (69-57) with five minutes left to play. The Warriors would not get any closer than 10 points the rest of the way, as a pair of Newell free throws with 13 seconds remaining gave the Skyhawks their biggest lead of the game and provided the final scoring margin of 79-64.
UT Martin now heads back on the road to take on a familiar face when it plays at Atlantic Coast Conference member Florida State on Sunday, Nov. 17 at 1 p.m. CST. The Seminoles are coached by UT Martin alum Leonard Hamilton, who was inducted to the inaugural UT Martin Athletics Hall of Fame class in 1983 after a stellar two-year playing career.