UT Martin women rally past SEMO 63-60

EVANSVILLE, Ind. – The No. 2 seeded University of Tennessee at Martin women’s basketball team overcame a second-half deficit to pull out a hard fought victory in the Ohio Valley Conference Basketball Championship semifinals with a 63-30 victory over No. 7 seed Southeast Missouri.

The Skyhawks (18-13) notched their 10th win in its last 11 outings while knocking off the Redhawks for the third time in the past 18 days behind a strong second half push. In a game which saw the game become tied on seven separate occasions along with 12 lead changes, UT Martin found a way to advance in the tournament bracket.

A strong defensive effort in the second half held Southeast Missouri to just 24 points while UT Martin won the battle of the boards and secured the paint late in the contest. With the victory, UT Martin advances to the OVC Basketball Championship semifinals for the eighth time in the past nine years while improving its record in tournament play to 14-5 under head coach Kevin McMillan.

Freshman OVC All-Newcomer honoree Chelsey Perry played a huge part in the comeback victory, scoring 11 of her team-high 19 points in the second half while notching five rebounds, two blocks and a steal. Sophomore All-OVC first teamer Kendall Spray also notched a nice tournament appearance, scoring 14 points to round out the Skyhawks in double figures.

“It was an ugly game,” McMillan said. “SEMO played the game so smart. They played hard and were controlling the paint and the rebounding margin. Quite frankly at halftime, I thought we were done. We have had our share of adversity this year and for these kids to find a way to win, I tip my hat.”

Southeast Missouri (14-17) saw its season come to a close despite an impressive showing. The Redhawks would shoot 45.1 percent from the field but its 56.3 percent mark from the free throw line proved to be costly. Seniors Ashton Luttrull (20 points) and Deja Jones (14 points, 11 rebounds) would both close out their Redhawk careers with impressive outings.

The game went back-and-forth in the opening five minutes of play as the segment featured three ties and seven lead changes alone. Spray would score eight of the team’s first 12 points while Luttrull equaled her pace with eight of her own to pace the Redhawks. After the first 10 minutes of play, Southeast Missouri would take a 22-17 advantage into the second quarter of play.

The Redhawks remained aggressive after shooting 60 percent in the opening quarter by pushing out their lead to as large as nine points with seven minutes to play in the first half. Luttrull would play a big part in the strong play by the lower seed, scoring 13 first half points. The Skyhawks would trim the margin to as close as four points with just under two minutes to play before taking a 36-30 deficit into the halftime break.

UT Martin came out of the third quarter looking to make things interesting. The Skyhawks would start the second half on a 10-2 run to erase a deficit and take their first lead since the first quarter on a three-pointer by Spray forcing a timeout. From there the game would seesaw with three tied margins and four lead changes in the period. When all things would be said and done, Southeast Missouri would cling to a one-point advantage heading into the fourth quarter.

With a one-point deficit heading into the final quarter of play, UT Martin looked for one final push down the stretch. After being held with a point for the first four minutes of the quarter, the Skyhawks scored on back-to-back possessions via a layup by Perry and a three-pointer by Spray to take a two-point advantage. With the lead intact, the Skyhawks margin would fluctuate down the stretch but never flip back to the Redhawks, resulting in a 63-60 victory.

UT Martin will return to action in the OVC Basketball Championship semifinals on Friday, March 2 against the winner of No. 3 SIUE and No. 6 Austin Peay. Tipoff from the Ford Center is scheduled for 3 p.m.

From: UTM Media Relations

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