The University of Tennessee at Martin women’s basketball team would challenge Southeastern Conference foe Alabama for the second consecutive year but could not overcome lopsided free throw and turnover margins as the Skyhawks fell 68-55.
The Skyhawks (2-6) shot 42.9 percent from the floor, knocking down 10 three-pointers and holding the lead twice. Where they come up short was in two categories – registering 27 turnovers while committing 30 fouls which led to 33 free throw attempts for the Crimson Tide.
Ashia Jones led the team with 18 points, along with four rebounds and four steals. Senior Karisma Tyson capitalized on her first career start, tallying 12 points and six rebounds on the night.
Alabama (7-3) placed four players in double figures, led by the career night of Hannah Cook who registered a new career best with 23 points. Karyla Middlebrook registered 14 points while Nikki Hegstetter and Ashley Williams tossed in 11 points each.
“This was a college basketball game that had 47 turnovers and we couldn’t do anything but turn the ball over on offense. That’s what I saw,” said UT Martin head coach Kevin McMillan. “We had control of the game late in the first half, but we couldn’t find enough to make the difference. We just can’t overcome a 21 point deficit at the foul line or 31 points off turnovers.”
The home squad would open the game on an 8-3 run in the first four minutes of the game. The Crimson Tide would draw five fouls in the opening minutes while both Cook and Hutchen notched four points each.
The Skyhawks would respond following another three-pointer from the Tide with a 7-0 run of their own to trim the margin to just one point. Trailing 11-10 at the 11:42 mark of the first, the trio of Jessy Ward, Jones and Monique Jackson each got on the board during the run.
UT Martin would briefly take its first lead of the game at the 10:27 mark as Jones knocked down a jumper from the left wing before Alabama would race down the floor for back-to-back field goals to retake the lead. The Tide would keep rolling after taking back the lead, using a 9-0 to hold a 20-12 advantage going into the 7:21 media.
The Skyhawks would outscore the Tide 9-5 over the next four minutes, trailing Alabama 25-21 at the final media break of the first half. Hegstetter would tally five points for the Tide during the span while five points from Tyson and baskets from Jones and Danielle Woolfolk trimmed the advantage.
UT Martin would outscore Alabama 4-1 in the final three minutes of the first half behind baskets by Ward and Jones. With the mini run, the Skyhawks would go into the halftime break trailing just 26-25. Alabama’s Cook led all scorers with 12 points while Jones tallied eight points to lead the Skyhawks.
The Tide would come out of the half with a 9-4 run, pushing their lead out from one point at the break to six at the first media break. Middlebrook would score five points in the opening points of the second while a pair of Skyhawks notched buckets.
Alabama would narrowly outscore the Skyhawks 16-14 over the following eight minute span. The Tide would be paced by Cook who tallied six points during the span while Briana Hutchen added four of her own. The Skyhawks received four points from Jones while Tyson notched a three-pointer to move the pair into double figures.
The Tide would string together a 7-0 run to jump out to a 62-47 lead with 3:40 to play before Jones would knock down a pair of free throws to snap the run. The Skyhawks would get as close as 10 points in the final minutes but could not overcome an insurmountable turnover and free throw margin, falling 68-55.
UT Martin will return to action on Saturday, Dec. 7 at Missouri Valley Conference foe Illinois State. Action from Redbird Arena is schedule to get underway at 2 p.m.