NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Junior guard Jasmine Newsome scored The University of Tennessee at Martin’s first 15 points on her way to an Ohio Valley Conference women’s basketball tournament record 41-point performance as the Skyhawks shook off a slow start to roll past Eastern Kentucky 78-63 at Municipal Auditorium.
After the league named Newsome its Player of the Year for the second consecutive season on Tuesday, Newsome put on a show in UT Martin’s tournament opener. She converted 14 shots – including a trio of three-pointers – and knocked down all 10 of her free throw attempts. She also corralled nine rebounds, handed out two assists and swiped a pair of steals.
Despite being held scoreless in the first half, three-time All-OVC first teamer Heather Butler amassed 21 points, doing most of her damage at the charity stripe (11-for-14). Senior Rickiesha Bryant tallied nine points, 11 rebounds and six blocks for the Skyhawks (17-14), who advance to the OVC semifinals against Eastern Illinois on Friday, March 8 at noon. Those two teams split the regular season, with both teams winning on their own home floor. The semifinals matchup will be the second time these team meet in nine days, as UT Martin defeated the Panthers by an 82-62 margin on Feb. 28.
The Lady Colonels (18-11) were led by Marie Carpenter’s 22 points, while Jalisa Bryant tallied 16 points off the bench for Eastern Kentucky, who was limited to 31 percent shooting (22-for-71) this afternoon.
“Being down 14-0 didn’t feel real good,” UT Martin head coach Kevin McMillan said. “But I thought we were getting good shots and I told our crew that we just kept needing to do what we do and just chip away every possession. I thought Jasmine’s first half was nothing short of amazing to keep us in the game. Then I thought everybody else came out in the second half and were embarrassed that they weren’t helping her out and did a much better job.”
Eastern Kentucky began the game on a 14-0 run through the first 5:02 until Newsome took over. Her three-pointer at the 13:20 mark got the Skyhawks on the scoreboard and an old-fashioned three-point play a little over a minute later pulled UT Martin within single-digits at 16-8.
The margin remained at eight until the Lady Colonels scored seven unanswered to take a 28-13 lead with 7:25 to play in the half. The Skyhawks answered right back with a 10-0 run over a stretch of 2:40, capped off with a pair of Shelby Crawford free throws.
A Newsome trifecta with 29 seconds left got UT Martin within four points before the Skyhawks faced a 34-28 halftime deficit. Newsome’s 24 first-half points led all scorers while Carpenter’s 13 points paced Eastern Kentucky.
Butler extended her NCAA record of 77 straight games with a three-pointer when she drained a trey to make the score 36-31 with 18:56 remaining. After Carpenter answered with a jumper, the Skyhawks used an 8-0 run – capped off with a fast break jumper by Newsome to take their first lead of the contest (39-38) at the 14:49 mark.
Eastern Kentucky came right back with five straight points to reclaim the lead for the next 4:46 until a Newsome three-pointer with 9:34 remaining gave UT Martin a 49-48 advantage.
The score was tied at 50-all with 7:54 to go until the Skyhawks put the game away with a 15-4 run, leading by 11 points after two Chelsey Hall free throws at the 3:26 mark. That began a 14-for-18 performance at the free throw for UT Martin down the stretch to close out the game and seal the victory.