The UT Martin men’s basketball team picked up a huge Ohio Valley Conference win over the Eastern Illinois Panthers, 81-51.
Coming into the game, Eastern Illinois (12-9, 6-3 OVC) led the OVC in scoring defense and defensive field goal percentage, giving up an average of 61 points per game and allowing opposing teams to shoot 40 percent. The Panthers started their conference portion of the schedule with a six game winning streak. However, EIU dropped their last two games against Murray State and Austin Peay coming into their matchup against the Skyhawks.
The defensive pressure did not show up Thursday night for the Panthers, as the Skyhawks shot 61 percent and 55 percent from behind the 3-point line. Despite playing without their leading scorer Chris Olivier, who averages 12 points per game, Eastern Illinois could not catchup with the Skyhawks on offense either, shooting 33 percent in the game.
Two Skyhawks finished the night with double-doubles, Twymond Howard and Marshun Newell. Howard led the Skyhawks on the stat sheet, scoring 22 points, 11 rebounds and shot a perfect 10-10 from the free-throw line. Newell finished behind Howard, scoring 15 points and 11 rebounds. Other Skyhawks who finished with double digit points were Deville Smith (12 points) and Alex Anderson (16 points).
Eastern Illinois was led by Trae Anderson, who had 14 points, and Dylan Chatman, who had 12 points.
The Skyhawks out-rebounded Eastern Illinois 37-19 and controlled the lead for just over 37 out of the total 40 minutes played. It was also the first 30 point win over a conference opponent since February 22, 1997 when UTM beat SEMO 92-62.
“It was a great win for us,” said UTM head coach Heath Schroyer. “I thought our guys really executed the game plan and we’re fortunate enough to get some shots.”
Also after the game, coach Schroyer had this to say about the future of this team.
“We’re playing really well,” said Schroyer. “I think this team has still got a ceiling. I think we can still get better, we’ve got to continue to develop our bench and continue to get better defensively and just understand and know our identity.”
With the win, the Skyhawks (13-7, 5-2 OVC) now move into third place overall in the OVC and second in the OVC West.
The Skyhawks will play their next game on the road when they travel to take on OVC rival Murray State. Tipoff between the Skyhawks and the Racers is scheduled for 7 p.m. and will follow the women’s game.