In a very fast-paced and high-scoring game UTM beat the Longwood Lancers in this year’s Ramada Worldwide BracketBuster 89-79.
The Skyhawks came into the game on a two-game losing streak while the Lancers were riding the momentum from a two-game winning streak when they arrived at Tom and Kathleen Elam Center.
The two teams played a very back-and-forth game, totaling 11 different lead changes. Longwood took control early going on a 6-0 run to put them up 11-5 with less than three minutes into the game. The Skyhawks, fueled by five points from freshman forward BJ McLaughlin, came back to tie the game at 16-all and took a 22-21 lead shortly after.
The game would remain close as the first half closed out with the Skyhawks taking the lead with 46 second left but the Lancers would hit a jumper for two-points as time ran out in the first half.
The second half contained much of the same for both teams. While Longwood was able to quickly pull out to a two-point lead they weren’t able to pull ahead long. The two teams continued trading the lead until a layup from sophomore forward Myles Taylor would give the Skyhawks the lead that they would hold onto until the end of the game. While the Lancers would keep it a very close game and almost come from behind to win, the Skyhawks ended with six-point run and clinched the win.
The Skyhawks had four players with double-digit points. Sophomore guard Terrence Smith led the team with 21 points, three assists, one rebound and one steal. Taylor was second with 18 points, three rebounds, four assists and four steals. Junior forward Mike Liabo finished with 15 points, a team-high of eight rebounds and a team-high of nine assists. McLaughlin ended the game with 10 points, seven rebounds, two assists, two steals and one block.
“I thought we were good today,” said coach James. “I thought our energy was good. I thought our execution was good. I thought, for the first time in a couple games, everybody dominated their role. Not only fulfilled their role, but dominated their roll.”
UTM totaled 24 defensive rebounds and 16 points off of turnovers which were key to their success against Longwood.
“Active hands is something we’ve kind of been trying to put an emphasis on in practice,” said James. “Just flying around, and being more aggressive. Tonight we did that. We were able to get our hands on a couple passes…we’re good when we’re in transition, but we have to continue to be active.”
The result of the team being ‘active’ was the Lancers sending the Skyhawks to the line 33 times, compared to the Lancers 15 times at the line.
“That’s part of our attacking. We want to attack,” said James. “We want to try to get the ball towards the rim, or to the rim, and we want to make the game kind of a an attacking game and I thought we did that tonight. I thought we didn’t settle for jump-shots, we took them when they were there.”
The Skyhawks will travel to Murray State Thursday Feb. 28 to take on the Racers as they try to sneak into the Ohio Valley Conference tournament. To follow the game, follow The Pacer on Facebook and Twitter, @thepacer.