Skyhawks Dismantle Golden Eagles
Matthew Butler came out hot and his backcourt mate Jacolby Mobley followed in his footsteps. Together the guards spirited the defending OVC West Champion UT Martin Skyhawks (16-9, 6-4) to a statement win, 75-46.
Foul trouble and poor shooting stained the Tennessee Tech (9-16, 5-5) performance.
UT Martin forward Javier Martinez recorded the school’s first ever 20-20 game.
“I got a good feeling for the ball when it comes off the rim,” said Martinez. “I just tell my teammates to shoot the ball and I go for the rebound.”
The senior finished with 22 points and 21 rebounds.
“Not only did he have a big game he is having a big year,” said UT Martin Head Coach Anthony Stewart. “I am so proud of that kid. I am his third coach in four years. He has been through a lot in his life and I am just fortunate enough he believed in me. He is giving me everything he has his senior year.”
Rebounding wars were tough for Javier. He carefully watched the angle of the incoming shot, consistently moving his feet in search of the perfect launching point.
With an enormous lead, UT Martin Coach Stewart pulled his starter Javier Martinez with just over four minutes left. Walking off the floor, Martinez was told by his teammate he had 19 rebounds. Instantly, Martinez blurted out a curse in frustration.
“I told him, ‘Can I set the school record?,'” said Martinez to Coach Stewart. “I told him if he could get me back in…”
Collecting his 20th rebound was not easy. Kedar Edwards instantly yielded the low block position on a TTU free throw attempt, but teammate Malik London skied above Martinez and collected an impressive, yet hardly record-setting rebound.
“One of my teammates stole the 21,” said Martinez with a straight face. “I wanted to 22, but I got 21 so I am good with it.”
More than once Martinez was the third-closest rebounder before he ended up holding the basketball.
“He is a multi-effort guy,” said Coach Stewart. “He just doesn’t give up on the ball. There is not a ball that he thinks he can’t get.”
Tennessee Tech dealt with early foul trouble to their leading scorer, Aleksa Jugovic. When Jugovic returned early second half, he found no shooting windows. Established sharpshooter Jugovic finished with a meager three points on 1-10 shooting. Recent hot-hand Hakeem Rogers couldn’t find his touch either. Rogers was 4-13 and 1-9 from three-point land. In all, the hosts severely struggled to hit from deep.
“We knew they were going to play zone,” said TTU junior Mason Ramsey. “The more shots we missed kept hurting us. Defense was hurting us.”
The visiting UT Martin squad shot 60.0% in the opening half and finished a cozy 51.7% for the game.
“If we went on a run it didn’t matter because we weren’t getting stops,” said Ramsey.
A brave Butler hit quickly out of the locker room.
The Skyhawks used active perimeter defense to spark an early run. In fact, UT Martin sprinted out to a 21-4 lead.
Javier Martinez scored a point a minute for much of the first half. Later, with a cozy 25+ point lead, Martinez collected nearly a rebound a possession. His large hands clasped onto so many missed shots.
Martinez even swept up the floor after he cleaned the glass. During a break in the action an uninspired mop-kid was replaced by an eager and sweaty Martinez. Javier took the mop and cleaned up the sweaty deck.
“We have four guys averaging double figures, so it can be any number of people’s night,” said Head Coach Stewart. “We just got to get better at getting our bench effort up on par with our starters. We had a game up at Murray. Unacceptable to give up 94 points. We took that to heart in our practice on Monday and our preparation yesterday and in our game today.”
The Skyhawk bench was sketchy Wednesday night. Without Fatodd Lewis, Khari Beaufort, and Mike Fofana available, Dante Bailey played a career-high 19 minutes.
Bailey set a single-game career high (against D1 opponent) with nine points.
Always a team capable of creating shots, the Skyhawks enjoyed this blowout win with steady, active defense.
“(After Murray State loss) we just got in the gym and got better,” said Head Coach Stewart. “We got in the film room, pointed things out, looked ourselves in the mirror and said, ‘This wasn’t right or I gotta get better.’ We just deal in the truth. And the truth is we need to get better.”
Mike Fofana broke his hand just after Christmas, but will be ready to return Saturday against a struggling Eastern Kentucky University (10-15, 3-7). Tennessee Tech heads out to Eastern Illinois University (10-12, 2-7) this weekend.