Early deficit too much to overcome in 89-75 UT Martin MBB setback at SIUE

 Early deficit too much to overcome in 89-75 UT Martin MBB setback at SIUE

The UT Martin men’s basketball squad couldn’t shake off a slow start Thursday at SIUE, falling by an 89-75 margin at First Community Arena.

Jordan Sears collected team-highs of 19 points, a season-best seven rebounds, and four assists for the Skyhawks (15-9, 7-4 OVC). KJ Simon scored 13 points while Desmond Williams and Jalen Myers both posted 10 points apiece for UT Martin, who shot 75 percent (21-for-28) from the free throw line and outscored the host Cougars by a 24-8 margin in fast break points.

SIUE (15-9, 6-5 OVC) received double-doubles out of Ray’Sean Taylor (game-high 27 points, 10 rebounds) and DeeJuan Pruitt (11 points, game-high 13 rebounds). Damarco Minor and Shamar Wright added 16 and 15 points, respectively, for the Cougars, who were held to 23.8 percent shooting (5-of-21) from the three-point range but began the game on a 23-4 run.

“SIUE outplayed us for 40 minutes – they’re a really good team and they came ready to go from the jump,” Skyhawk head coach Ryan Ridder said. “We didn’t guard at the level that we’ve been accustomed to. We told our guys that adversity was coming – we’re not going to be defined by what happened tonight. We just didn’t play our best basketball tonight.”

SIUE scored the first four points of the game before KK Curry got UT Martin on the scoreboard with a 20-foot jumper from the right corner at the 17:24 mark. However, the Cougars put together a 23-4 run over the first eight-plus minutes of the contest.

The Skyhawks scored five of the next seven points and appeared to gain momentum after a Myers right-wing trifecta just before the under-8 media timeout. A Sears pull-up 15-foot jumper and a Myers bucket on back-to-back possessions trimmed the SIUE advantage to 38-27 with 2:24 remaining before the halftime break.

The Cougars then caught fire once again, ending the half with 11 unanswered points to take a 49-27 lead into the locker room.

Myers and Sears shared the team lead with six points apiece at the half while Taylor (15 points) and Wright (12) guided SIUE in the first 20 minutes.

The Cougars accounted for the first six points of the second half until a Desmond Williams three-pointer from the left corner at the 18:19 mark. Sears scored four consecutive UT Martin points before Simon accomplished the same feat moments later.

The Skyhawks went on a 13-4 run in a span of 3:32 as Williams and Sears each sank three-pointers from the left corner to ignite the surge. Rifen Miguel then converted buckets inside on consecutive trips down the floor before one free throw by Koby Jeffries. A pair of free throws from Simon wrapped up the run that whittled the SIUE lead to 69-51 with 9:41 to go.

UT Martin managed another 13-2 run late to get within 13 points with five different players (Sears, Josh Endicott, Simon, Jeffries, Myers) contributing. Ultimately, time ran out on the Skyhawk comeback attempt

UT Martin continues its three-game OVC road swing on Saturday when it heads to Lindenwood. Tipoff for the backend of the doubleheader with the women’s team is set for 3:30 p.m.

(UTM Sports Information)