The University of Tennessee at Martin women’s basketball team notched its 10th consecutive victory, tying the program record for the best start to conference play in school history with a 71-61 victory at Austin Peay on Wednesday evening.
The Skyhawks (14-9, 10-0 OVC) remained unbeaten in league play with their 10th win and seventh road victory. Reigning OVC Player of the Week Ashia Jones – the nation’s ninth leading scorer – notched her seventh 30-point outing of the season with 34 points and five rebounds. Jones was the only player to score in double figures for the Skyhawks while Karisma Tyson trailed with nine points and Katie Schubert tallied six points and a team-best 10 rebounds.
Austin Peay (8-15, 5-5 OVC) shot just 29.4 percent from the floor while placing three players in double figures. April Rivers led the team with 16 points off the bench while the league’s second leading scorer Tiasha Gray tallied 14 points, six assists and six steals. Forward Jennifer Nwokocha tallied a double-double with 10 points and 10 rebounds to round out contributors.
“The last three minutes of the first half was really good and we made a good push in the second half to push it out,” said UT Martin head coach Kevin McMillan. “The bad thing is that we were leading by 17 with two minutes left and we let them close the gap to 10 points before the game was over. We have a chance to be really good, but we are teetering. We are at the point in the season whether we want to be a champion or not and that is a big question.”
Neither team would get much going in the opening four minutes of play as the Skyhawks held a narrow 6-4 lead at the first media timeout. Both teams would combine for six turnovers while the Lady Govs would tally eight offensive boards in the opening minutes alone.
Following a slew of substitutions, both teams would begin to take care of the ball while finding the bottom of the basket over the following five minute stretch. The Lady Govs would narrowly outscore the Skyhawks 11-10 over the following stretch, led by the play of Kristen Stainback who tallied seven points during the span.
The Skyhawks would respond with a 7-4 run of their own as Jones, Schubert and hometown guard Jessy Ward all scored during the segment. The Lady Govs would find baskets from Nwokocha and Sydney Gooch during the stretch.
Austin Peay would use a 5-3 margin following the media to take the team’s second lead of the game at the 5:16 mark, holding a 24-23 advantage.
UT Martin would respond by finishing the half on a 13-1 run over the final five minutes to take a 36-25 lead into the half. After struggling from behind the arc, the Skyhawks would tally three trifectas in the first half’s final minutes from Schubert, Tyson and Chelsea Roberts to finish the half strong.
Jones would lead all scorers with 13 points at the half while Roberts and Tyson each chipped in five points for the Skyhawks. Stainback led the Lady Govs with seven points while Nwokocha tallied six points and eight rebounds in the half.
Both teams would come out of the half looking to their top players in Jones and Gray. Ranked No. 1 and 2 in the OVC in scoring, both players scored each of the team’s six respective points during the opening four minutes of play as the Skyhawks clung to a 42-31 lead.
The Skyhawks would begin to put some separation between the Lady Govs, stringing together a 14-8 margin to push their lead out to 17 points with 12 minutes to play. Jones would lead the Skyhawks with five points during the span while five players total scored for the visitors during the stretch.
The Lady Govs would cut into the lead with a 10-7 advantage over the following sequence seeing the advantage cut to 14 with eight minutes to play. Rivers would begin to catch fire for the home squad during the run by knocking down back-to-back three-pointers.
UT Martin would look to push its lead back out over the following couple of minutes, seeing its lead reach as high as 18 points at the 4:43 mark. Jones would make the span her own, notching eight points during the team’s 8-4 run, tallying her seventh 30 point game of the season.
Austin Peay would finish the game on an 8-0 run over the final 1:49 minutes while holding the Skyhawks scoreless over the game’s last 4:16 minutes. Despite the run, the Skyhawks proved to be too much for the Lady Govs as they picked up the 71-61 victory.
The Skyhawks will return to action on Saturday, Feb. 7 when they play host to SIUE in a battle for the league’s top spot. Action from the Elam Center on Lin Dunn and City of Dresden night is scheduled for 4 p.m.