The University of Tennessee at Martin men’s basketball team never trailed and saw two players tally double-doubles in a convincing 81-51 victory over Ohio Valley Conference rival Eastern Illinois at the Kathleen and Tom Elam Center.
With the win, the Skyhawks improve to 13-7 overall with a 5-2 league mark, taking over sole possession of second place in the OVC West division. This marks the third time in UT Martin program history that the team has started 5-2 in OVC play and first time since the 1999-2000 campaign.
Tonight’s win also marks the first 30-plus point conference victory for UT Martin since the Skyhawks defeated Southeast Missouri by a 92-62 margin on Feb. 20, 1997.
“Eastern Illinois is a very good team and is really well-coached,” Skyhawk head coach Heath Schroyer said. “They had a tough night and we played really well. I thought our guys really executed the game plan and were fortunate to make some shots. We’re playing pretty well but this team still has a ceiling and can get better.”
Twymond Howard accumulated a game-high 22 points – one point shy of his career-high total – and grabbed 11 rebounds for his third double-double of the season for UT Martin. Howard became just the fifth Skyhawk in the last eight years to make at least 10 free throws in a game without a miss (10-for-10). Marshun Newell also tallied his third double-double of the season with 15 points and 11 rebounds for the Skyhawks, who shot a season-high 60.9 percent (28-for-46) against the OVC’s top team in fewest points allowed and defensive field goal percentage.
The Skyhawks also placed Alex Anderson in double figures in the scoring column, as he tied his career-high with 16 points on 6-of-8 shooting, including four 3-pointers in five attempts. Deville Smith added 12 points and a game-high six assists for UT Martin, who nearly doubled up the Panthers on the glass (37 to 19).
Eastern Illinois (12-9, 6-3 OVC) was led by Trae Anderson’s 14 points while Dylan Chatman added 12 points for the Panthers, who were playing without leading scorer and rebounder Chris Olivier.
UT Martin jumped out to an early lead, as a Howard jumper, a Smith three-pointer and a hawking defense provided the Skyhawks with a 5-0 lead three minutes into the game.
Newell’s second trifecta of the game kept UT Martin’s advantage at five points (17-12) at the 11:48 mark of the first half. The Panthers then tallied five points in a row to even the score at 17-all before an extended run swayed the lead back in favor of the Skyhawks.
Anderson keyed the 11-0 run for UT Martin, nailing a trio of three-pointers over a span of four possessions to make the score 28-17. Eastern Illinois would answer with a bucket on its ensuing trip down the floor but the Skyhawks would pad their lead with a 15-3 run to close out the first half, taking a 43-22 lead in the process.
Smith (12 points) and Howard (10) reached double-figures in the scoring column in the first half for UT Martin, who shot 65.4 percent from the floor – the Skyhawks’ best percentage in a half under Schroyer. Eastern Illinois was led by Anderson’s eight points but the Panthers were limited to 32 percent shooting in the first 20 minutes.
Howard sank a short jumper to begin the scoring in the second half, extending UT Martin’s lead out to 45-22. In fact, Howard accounted for 12 of the Skyhawks’ first 14 points of the second half.
After a Reggie Smith three-pointer at the 11:30 mark cut UT Martin’s lead down to 16 points, the Skyhawks unreeled an 18-2 run to essentially put the game away with a 71-39 lead with 5:30 left to play.
A three-pointer by Richard Lee from the left wing at the 2:05 mark gave UT Martin an 81-47 lead – its biggest lead of the night – on the way to the big win.
The Skyhawks now face a quick turnaround, as they make the short drive to OVC West rival Murray State on Saturday, Jan. 31. Tipoff from the CFSB Center is scheduled for 7 p.m.