Even with a sick Myles Taylor, UT Martin kept themselves in the OVC tournament picture with a 77-68 win over the Cougars of SIUE. The Skyhawks shot an amazing 58% from the field and thanks to an aggressive defense converted 13 Cougar turnovers into 15 Skyhawk points.
Taylor was left out of the starting lineup today due to battling a recent bout of the flu, “It started last night and I thought I wouldn’t have a chance to play, but I looked at (Michael Jordan) and how he scored 40 with the flu.” Taylor’s production wasn’t missed, quite as much as Jordan, but did score 23 points off the bench, 13 of which came from the free throw line.
The game was chippy from the start as there were exchanges of words during the pregame shootaround, and it only was a spark for the teams. The situation carried into the game as fouls were rough and words were aplenty after each deadball.
After the Cougars grabbed the early lead, the Skyhawks used an 11-4 run after the second media timeout to grab a 21-15 lead which was highlighted in large part to full court pressure that led to three monster slams that got the crowd into the game. The run would continue and expand into a 23-8 run putting the score at 30-19 as Terrence Smith drained a three. The Cougars would fight back to get the halftime deficit to 7 as Jerome Jones hit a last second three giving him 12 in the opening half. The Skyhawks shot 50% in the opening half, while cashing in at the free throw line hitting 10 in the opening half.
The Cougars shot just as well as their opponents but 9 first half turnovers allowed the Skyhawks 13pts. The Cougars shot 41% from the field and 40% from three in the opening half. Jerome Jones, who is coming off a career high 31pts against SEMO, picked up where he left off scoring 12 first half points.:
Out of the locker room the Cougars made it close, getting to within three before the Skyhawks would amass a 13-2 run over the next seven and a half minutes led by Mike Liabo who scored 9 during the run. The amazing thing was that the majority of this run Taylor out of the game due to foul trouble he picked up earlier in the half. Another Skyhawk to step up in the scoring production was Smith who ended the afternoon with 14 points. The Cougars would make a run in the final two minutes and trim the lead to ten but it was too late as clutch shooting in the end won the game.
The victorious Skyhawks were led by Taylor who posted 23pts, 5 rebounds during 22 minutes of play. Smith finished with 16pts, his second most this season, and Liabo had 15. Head coach Jason James was proud of the way his team responded after their loss on Thursday against Eastern Illinois. “We had every opportunity to lay down and say that’s it, but that’s not who we are and we continued to fight and continued to execute.”
The Cougars never got in a rhythm when the Skyhawks showed the full court pressure and it led to the majority of the turnovers. SIUE’s Jones posted 18 points on 7-16 shooting and never got to the free throw line (team only shot 14 total). Joining Jones in double figure scoring was Kris Davis who had a productive 15pts and 7 assists.
This game is huge positioning wise for the OVC standings, as SIUE drops to 4-7 and the Skyhawks up to 4-8. As was seen in the preview, this game was about the tournament and it could be a reason SIUE is left out as they get swept this season by UTM. Both teams go on different schedules from here as the Cougars still have to face Murray, TSU and Belmont. The road is easier you could say for UT Martin with three winnable games in SEMO,TTU, and Austin Peay.