It was announced today that the University of Tennessee at Martin men’s basketball team will play at Evansville in the 2015 CollegeInsider.com Postseason Tournament semifinals on Tuesday, March 31. Tipoff time from the Ford Center has yet to be announced but the game will be broadcasted live on CBS College Sports Network.
The Skyhawks are in the midst of a remarkable turnaround under head coach Heath Schroyer, a finalist for the Hugh Durham National Coach of the Year Award. After finishing with eight overall wins and a last-place finish in the Ohio Valley Conference last year, UT Martin is one win shy of tying the program record for single-season victories with a 21-12 record. The 13-win increase is tied for the fourth-best improvement in Division-I behind Temple (17), UC Davis (16) and Northern Iowa (15).
By the time that UT Martin and the Purple Aces tip off on Tuesday, the Skyhawks will be one of just 14 teams still alive in the hunt for a postseason championship. UT Martin has advanced to the CIT Final Four behind the first three Division-I postseason wins in school history, defeating Northwestern State (104-79), USC Upstate (60-49) and Eastern Kentucky (70-69) all on the road in the span of seven days. The Skyhawks now boast 12 road victories this season, which is tied for the most in the Division-I basketball ranks.
Alex Anderson has been UT Martin’s leading scorer in the postseason, averaging 19.0 points while connecting on 60 percent (15-for-25) of his three-point attempts. Twymond Howard is just behind at 18.0 points per game on 56 percent shooting (20-for-36) while Marshun Newell (14.3 points per game) and Deville Smith (12.3 points per game) have also averaged double-figures in the scoring column. Newell played the role of hero in the Skyhawks’ quarterfinal win at Eastern Kentucky, burying the game-winning three-pointer with 3.3 seconds left while Smith has led the team in rebounding (9.0 per game) and assists (6.0 per game) during the postseason run.
Evansville enters the contest with a 22-12 overall record after a home win over IPFW (82-77) and road wins over Eastern Illinois (83-68) and Louisiana (89-82) in the CIT. In his eighth season at the helm of his alma mater, Marty Simmons has guided the Purple Aces to their most victories since 1998-99.
The Purple Aces have been led by DJ Balentine, who leads the Missouri Valley Conference in scoring with 20.0 points per outing. The junior guard has elevated his game in the postseason with 30.7 points per game, including a pair of 35-point performances.
Evansville also boasts junior center Egidijus Mockevicius, whose 19 double-doubles ranked as the sixth-most in the nation this year. In CIT play, the 6-10, 225-pounder has averaged 14.3 points and 11.0 rebounds per outing.
Tickets are now on sale through the Evansville ticket office at (812) 488-2237. Skyhawk fans can ask for preferred seating in the UT Martin section, which is section 107. Tickets are $15 for adults and $5 for fans ages three through 17. Children age two and under get in free.