Tech falls to UT Martin in OVC Tournament Finals

By THOMAS CORHERN
HERALD-CITIZEN Assistant Sports Editor

NASHVILLE — A valiant comeback for the Tennessee Tech women wasn't enough Saturday afternoon as UT Martin defeated the Golden Eagles 82-76 in the Ohio Valley Conference women's basketball tournament championship game at Municipal Auditorium.

After trailing by as many as 17 points, Tacarra Hayes, an all-tournament team selection, made it a one-woman mission to try to get Tech back in the game. As the game closed, Hayes ended the game with a game-high 33 points, including 3-for-4 from 3-point range.

"I knew my team needed me to step up," Hayes said, "so I just put them on my back and just tried to do what was needed at the time, just keep going hard and my coaches kept telling me, 'Attack them, attack them, just attach them.' We needed to get to the free throw line 20 times and that is what I was trying to do. Just keep attacking them and try to get my teammates open and if they were open, just kick it out."

Molly Heady put together a strong effort, collecting nine rebounds to go with her 14 points, while Kylie Cook scored 11.

The Skyhawks had two representatives — Heather Butler and Jasmine Newsome — both of whom made incredible impacts in the game.

Newsome scored a team-high 24 points, while Butler scored 21 to lead UTM (21-10). Taylor Hall (13), Alecia Weatherly (11) and Perica Hall (10) also scored in double-figures for the Skyhawks.
The Golden Eagles jumped out to a quick lead, but UT Martin countered, pulling ahead with a Butler trey with 12:01 remaining in the first half to give the Skyhawks a 10-8 advantage.

It snowballed from there. Not even six minutes later, UTM led by 10 points (24-14 with 6:07 left in the half), then extended the lead to 13 (31-18) before the half concluded. Tech was able to chip some away, cutting the deficit to under double-digits at the half, 34-25 in favor of the Skyhawks.
Tech shot 33.3 percent in the first half, 11-of-33. But they did improve to 50-percent shooting in the second, hitting 16 of 32 shots.

"One thing we have always talked about throughout the year is just taking advantage of opportunites," Tech coach Sytia Messer said. "We had easy baskets that we misses that came back to haunt us, and in the second half, we were on our heels. We were all uptight, we were all edgy. Had we made those baskets, it would have been better. But that's part of it. We are still young. We have no seniors and an even better future ahead of us."

UTM took its largest lead (50-33) with 13:48 remaining in the game, then the Golden Eagles eventually cut the lead back down to seven (74-67) with 1:28 left. The Skyhawks reached back up by 11, but Hayes' 3-pointer with two seconds remaining cut the advantage to six points for the final margin.

The Golden Eagles had banked on free throws to try get back into the game, but Tech only got the chance to shoot 14 shots, much fewer than its goal of 20, hitting 11. The Skyhawks were 25 of 29.

"I think the tell-tale sign of this game was we only attempted 14 free throws," Messer said. "Our goal was 20-plus. I felt we settled for the jumper a tad too much."

UTM also took advantage of Tech's turnovers, literally scoring two points for every turnover. The Skyhawks converted 12 miscues into 24 points.