[The Statlines] SEMO: Nick Niemczyk 16 points, 5 rebounds, 3 assists
UT Martin: Mike Liabo 18 points, 6 rebounds, 2 assists
[The Story] Marcus Brister’s drive puts the Redhawks up 2 with just 12.5 seconds remaining, and a last second 3-pointer from Mike Liabo rims out, as the Redhawks escape Martin with their 2nd road win of the season.
UT Martin took a 9 point lead into the halftime, but the defense fell apart in the second half, as the Redhawks missed just 6 shots in the second half, hitting 71% from the field. Nick Niemcyzk scored 11 of his 16 points in the second half, including hitting 3 deep 3’s that sparked SEMO’s 2nd half run. Leon Powell fouled out yet again, finishing the night with only 9 points, but SEMO once again got help in the paint from Tyler Stone who scored 12 of his 16 points in the 2nd half.
[SEMO] The first words out of head coach Dickie Nutt’s mouth after the game: “Tale of two halves,” and there’s no doubt that was true tonight. The team came out of the locker room at halftime and it was like a someone turned on a switch. I’ve been high on the Redhawks lately, and for 20 minutes tonight, they reminded me why.
But then there are the other 20 minutes, where it seemed like every problem the Redhawks have had all season were apparent at once. Powell got into early foul trouble, the defense was slow to rotate to the shooters, and the guards were especially ineffective. It was a perfect storm. And they were still just down 9.
And I think that really speaks to the strength of this squad. This team has a lot of talent, and even with an rough start to the game, they made just enough plays to escape with a win. Sound like any other teams I’ve seen lately? I’m not all surprised that the two remaining undefeated teams in the conference are from Murray and Cape Girardeau, and SEMO could be another team (along with Eastern Kentucky) to provide a challenge to the Racers undefeated season.
[UT Martin] Last season, UT Martin was all offense and no defense, which was good enough for the Skyhawks to make a late season run. So far this season, the no defense part had remained true, but with Terrance Smith out, the Skyhawks also struggled on the other side of the basketball as well. Over the past 2 games, I’m finally starting to get the feeling that part of their game may be returning. And it might be just enough to do the same as last year.
But then there’s Mike Liabo. I still stand by my statements, and Jason James decision, to put Liabo in the starting lineup because I think the Skyhawks need his shooting. But then there’s the other half of the game, and honestly, he’s a liability on defense. I feel the need to mention again that I really like Liabo and the energy and emotion he plays with, but when he’s the on ball defender, I just tense up, because I know what’s going to happen. Everyone that scouts the Skyhawks sees the same thing and tells the players to drive on Liabo. And they do, with positive results. But what do you do at this point? You need his offense if you’re UTM with Terrance Smith out. I don’t feel you can win games without it. But, does he do enough on offense to offset what happens to him on defense. Tonight, he scored 18, and dished out 2 assists, in essence responsible for at least 22 of UTM’s 71 points. Did he solely give up 22? That’s the big question.
[Final Thoughts] SEMO got a big win needed to gain confidence heading to play a very, very tough Eastern Kentucky squad on Saturday, a game that could have big implications when it’s time to hand out bye’s in the OVC tourney.
On the other side, you still have to be encouraged that the Skyhawks are competing. They’re playing better, just can’t get over the hump and get a win. Their best chance of the season comes on Saturday as they host SIU Edwardsville.