Skyhawk MBB dealt 88-82 setback by Tennessee State on Senior Day

 Skyhawk MBB dealt 88-82 setback by Tennessee State on Senior Day

The UT Martin men’s basketball team withstood an 18-point deficit to take a lead with six minutes remaining Thursday night but couldn’t hang on as Tennessee State escaped with an 88-82 win at the Elam Center.

It was a game of runs as the Skyhawks (18-12, 10-7 OVC) raced out to a 12-4 lead a little over four minutes into the contest. The Tigers responded with a 33-7 run before UT Martin closed out the first half on a 12-2 surge. Trailing by seven points with 11:49 to go, the Skyhawks went on a 16-8 run to take their aforementioned lead at 67-66 with 6:08 left to play. However, Tennessee State scored eight of the next nine points and did not trail the rest of the way.

Jordan Sears was responsible for a game-high 20 points on 9-of-10 shooting while Parker Stewart (16 points plus team-highs of seven rebounds, five assists and two blocks), KJ Simon (16 points) and Jalen Myers (11 points) completed the double-digit scorers for UT Martin, who shot 54.2 percent but only connected on 3-of-15 three-point tries and 15 of its 26 attempts from the free throw stripe.

The Tigers (18-12, 10-7 OVC) were led by Zion Griffin’s 19 points. Adong Makuoi added 16 points and was joined in double figures by Marcus Fitzgerald, Jr. (15 points) and Dedric Boyd (12 points). Jr. Clay also tallied nine points, a game-high 11 assists, five steals and four rebounds as Tennessee State made 12 treys.

After a pregame ceremony to celebrate seniors Rifen Miguel, Josh Endicott, Simon and Stewart, a layup from Chris Nix on the opening possession got the Skyhawks fired up from the jump. Simon and Myers combined to score UT Martin’s next 10 points – five apiece – as the Skyhawks led 12-4 with under 15 minutes to go in the opening half.

The Tigers scored the next 10 points of the game to take their first lead at the 10:45 mark. A pair of KK Curry free throws knotted the score at 16-16, Tennessee State went on a 23-5 run to go on top by a 39-21 margin with 4:36 left to play before the halftime break.

Koby Jeffries ignited UT Martin with back-to-back driving layups before Stewart heated up – scoring six of the final eight Skyhawk points down the stretch to will UT Martin within single points (41-33) at the intermission.

Stewart’s nine points guided the Skyhawks in the first 20 minutes while Fitzgerald posted 11 points to lead all scorers.

UT Martin came out and scored the first five points of the second half, including a fast break trifecta from Sears that trimmed the Skyhawk deficit to one possession (41-38).

After the Tigers pushed their lead back out to seven points on five separate occasions, a Sears pull-up jumper in the lane with a little under 11 minutes to go cut UT Martin’s deficit back to a single digit (58-55). That began a stretch where Sears scored six straight Skyhawk points to get UT Martin easily back within striking distance.

Myers (two free throws), Desmond Williams (fast break layup) and Sears (driving layup) contributed to a quick 6-0 run that gave the Skyhawks a 67-66 advantage after Sears’ bucket with 6:08 to go. However, Tennessee State accounted for the next six points.

A contested three-pointer from Stewart and a baseline drive for a dunk by Sears each shaved UT Martin’s deficit to one point with under two minutes remaining but the Tigers were able to score seven of the final nine points of the contest.

The Skyhawks wrap up the regular season Saturday at OVC regular season champion Morehead State. Tipoff is set for 2:00 on WCMT.