For the fifth straight year, the Skyhawks women’s basketball team will play for the Ohio Valley Conference Championship, following a close 71-65 win over the Belmont Bruins.
In a rematch of last year’s OVC title game, the Skyhawks were able to beat the high-powered Belmont team thanks in part to UTM’s Ashia Jones.
The sophomore forward’s performance (39 points) came close to overtaking the OVC Tournament record for points (41), previously set by former Skyhawk Jasmine Newsome.
“She just made a ton of great decisions,” said UTM head coach Kevin McMillan. “We needed her to put up big numbers.”
The game was back-and-forth through the first half including seven lead changes and four ties. The Skyhawks took a 38-34 lead into the locker room at halftime.
For the entire second half, the Skyhawks controlled the lead. However, the Bruins were not willing to give up the win so quickly. Belmont managed to string together several runs to keep them in one-possession games, including one where the Bruins trailed by three points with 33 seconds remaining. That’s when sophomore guard Jessy Ward hit a 3-point shot that boosted UTM to their 71-65 win.
Belmont’s scoring efficiency was one thing that helped the Bruins stay within striking distance of the Skyhawks. The Bruins shot 46 percent from the field (25-55) and 48 percent from 3-point range (10-21). Seniors Jordyn Luffman-Hartsfield (17 points) and Katie Carroll (15 points) led Belmont in scoring.
Meanwhile, the Skyhawks shot 49 percent from the field (29-59) and 50 percent from 3-point range (6-12).
“I thought we did a great job defensively … for most of this game,” said McMillan. “[It was] a good ballgame for us, an exhausting ballgame.”
The Skyhawks will advance to the OVC Tournament Championship game where they will face the Tennessee State Lady Tigers. Tipoff is scheduled for 1 p.m. and will be broadcasted on ESPN3 as well as the OVC Digital Network.
Photo Credit: Sports Information