The University of Tennessee at Martin women’s basketball team never trailed while snapping a brief three-game losing streak behind a complete team effort in a 84-74 victory over Evansville, notching head coach Kevin McMillan’s 100th career victory at the helm of the Skyhawks.
The Skyhawks (2-4) placed four players in double figures for the second consecutive game while dominating on boards and shooting nearly 50 percent from the floor and knocking down a season-best 14 three-pointers. Career nights from both sophomores Jessy Ward and Tiara Caldwell proved to be enough to defend the Elam Center in a non-conference bout.
Ward tallied a career high 25 points in the victory, knocking down seven three-pointers on the evening. Caldwell tallied her first career double-double with 12 points and a career best 14 rebounds, including eight offensive boards. The duo was joined in double figures by Ashia Jones (15) and Katie Schubert (10).
“We’ll obviously take every win we can get and I thought we played a good Evansville team and had a good team performance,” said McMillan. “I thought Jessy Ward was great for us down the stretch. We needed someone to make some big shots for us and she did. Caldwell had a big night with her 14 rebounds, which was huge for us on the inside. We are inching along, but we’re getting there.”
Evansville (1-4) saw career nights from a pair of shooters as well. Sara Dickey led the Purple Aces with a new career high with 28 points while Ladd notched 25 points in the loss. The Purple Aces shot 55.6 percent from the floor during the game while Sasha Robinson led the team with eight rebounds in addition to her eight points.
The Skyhawks opened the game on a 9-4 run after Ward knocked down a pair of three-pointers while Schubert notched a trifecta of her own. The run would continue with a 15-8 advantage at the first media timeout. The home squad would knock down five of seven three-pointers during the span, led with three by Ward.
Evansville would open the following few minutes on a 7-0 run behind five points from Dickey. The game would be tied at 15 at the 14:48 mark after Kenyia Johnson scored a fast break layup following a Skyhawk turnover. UTM would rally with a 5-2 run of their own to hold a 22-17 advantage with 11:39 to play in the first.
The Skyhawks would continue on their previous run, extending it out to 13-0 over the course of four minutes, forcing Evansville to call a timeout with just under 10 minutes to play. During the run, the Skyhawks would tally another pair of three-pointer behind the hot shooting of Ward and Haley Howard, leading 30-17.
The Purple Aces would look to get back in the game over the next four minutes, outscoring the home team 10-6 during the span. Dickey and Ladd would take over the game for the visitors as Ladd knocked down a pair of three-pointers and Dickey tallied four points.
UT Martin would take a 46-32 lead into the halftime break. Finishing the first half on a brief 6-3 lead, the Skyhawks were led in scoring by Ward with 11 points while five players scored six points or more in the opening half. Evansville was led in scoring by Dickey with 18 points in the opening period.
Both teams would come out of the half with nine points in the opening five minutes. Evansville would get points from Robinson, Dickey and Ladd while four Skyhawks scored during the span. The Skyhawks would hold a 55-41 lead at the 14:56 mark of the second half.
The Purple Aces would put together a substantial run to get back in the ballgame. Stringing together a 28-14 run, Evansville would end up tying the contest at the 6:37 mark with a three-pointer from Dickey to knot the game at 69-69. During the run, Ladd would score 15 points for the Purple Aces.
Ward’s fifth trifecta of the game gave the Skyhawks the lead back after a brief tie, putting the home squad back on top with at 72-69. A jumper by Schubert would put the Skyhawks up by five before Khristian Hart would knock down a three-pointer to trim the margin to two points going into the final media timeout.
The two point margin would be as close as Evansville would get in the final minutes as the Skyhawks finished the game on a 10-2 in the game’s five four minutes of play. Ward would tally eight of her career high 25 points down the stretch to hold onto the 84-74 victory – snapping a three game losing streak.
UT Martin will return to action on Thursday, Dec. 4 when the Skyhawks travel to Southeastern Conference foe Alabama.