Skyhawks hold on to pick up 81-79 win over Belmont.

Skyhawks hold on to pick up 81-79 win over Belmont.

The Skyhawks responded in a big way Monday after their 10 point loss Saturday night to Austin Peay with a big 81-79 win over the Belmont Bruins.

The game was a crucial one for both teams because the winner of the matchup will secure first place in the Ohio Valley Conference standings. Both the Skyhawks (18-8, 11-2 OVC) and the Bruins (18-8, 10-3 OVC) were tied for first place coming into the matchup.

The Skyhawks found immediate success in the first quarter, opening the game with a 13-3 run.  The Skyhawks would continue their hot shooting and extend their lead to 17 midway through the first quarter. The Skyhawk defense was also key in the first half, forcing nine turnovers and scoring 17 points off of those turnovers. However, Belmont would not go away and were able to keep in close through the first quarter. UTM led after the first quarter 31-17.

The second quarter was a completely different story for the Skyhawks, who struggled shooting the ball, hitting 33 percent overall and 30 percent from 3-point range. Belmont, however, was able to beat the tough UTM full-court press that gave them problems in the first quarter and started connecting their shots in the second quarter. Belmont scored 31 points in the quarter and held UTM to only 16. A 10-0 run towards the end of the second quarter was enough to give the Bruins the 48-47 lead at halftime.

The Skyhawks played much more aggressive in the second half and were able to retake the lead less than three minutes into the second half. Both squads swapped the lead three times, but UTM controlled the lead for a majority of the third quarter. That lead would carry over into the fourth quarter where the Skyhawks once again dominated the lead of the game, but were unable to pull away from the Bruins.

The Skyhawks went up by eight points with three minutes remaining, but Belmont bounced back and cut the lead to a point with 17 seconds remaining. After a missed free throw and a made free throw by Myah Taylor, the Bruins had a shot to tie the game or take the lead with three seconds remaining, but a missed 3-pointer by Darby Maggard sealed Belmont’s fate, and UTM squeaked out of the Elam Center Monday with the 81-79 win.

Haley Howard was the leading scorer for the Skyhawks with 21 points and was followed by three other players who tallied double digit points: Katie Schubert (17 points), Chelsea Roberts (14 points) and Taylor (12 points). Belmont was led by Maggard, who tallied 26 points and shot 8-13 from 3-point range.

Overall, the Skyhawks shot 45 percent (30-66) from the field, 36 percent from 3-point range (11-30) and 83 percent from the free throw line (10-12). Belmont shot 51 percent overall (30-58), 50 percent from 3-point range (15-30) and 57 percent from the free throw line (4-7). Once again, the Skyhawks were out rebounded 45-24 but forced 23 Belmont turnovers and only gave up five turnovers.

“This game was about guts in the second half from our crew,” said UTM head coach Kevin McMillan.  “We played a game two days ago and had to turn around quickly and go again. The way we needed to play in this game was going to be about effort, and I thought we backed down in the second quarter and we didn’t want to keep fighting, but to our kids’ credit, in the second half, they figured out a way to fight, came back and figured out how to win a game.”

The Skyhawks will return to action Saturday night when they take on SIU Edwardsville. Tipoff between the Skyhawks and the Bruins is scheduled for 4 p.m.

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