The Skyhawk women’s basketball team clinched their third straight Ohio Valley Conference regular season title Wednesday night in a dominating 91-52 win over Eastern Illinois.
The Skyhawks (20-8, 13-2 OVC) are now the No.1 seed in next week’s OVC tournament. That also means the Skyhawks will play next Wednesday at noon in the first round of the OVC tournament against the No. 8 seed.
“I can’t say enough for the kids and what they have been able to do this year,” UTM head coach Kevin McMillan said. “[UTM] figured out how to play and reinvented themselves multiple times. It’s a testament to what they have been willing to do with the roles that they’ve played, then we’ve had to switch the roles with them and switch them again.
“[I’m] so proud with what they’ve been able to accomplish. I think they’ve represented us well and hope that they have more in them. I hope this is the beginning.”
The Skyhawks, who have now won four of the last five OVC regular season titles, are now one step away from reclaiming the OVC tournament title, which fell just out of their grasps last season after winning four-straight. But first, the Skyhawks had to get past Eastern Illinois in their final home game of the season.
The Skyhawks took the early lead of the game and never really looked back for the rest of the contest. The Skyhawks started the first quarter shooting 46 percent overall. The defense was successful in holding the Panthers to 20 percent shooting in the opening quarter. That along with four EIU turnovers helped the Skyhawks take a 21-10 lead at the end of the first quarter.
The Skyhawks continued their hot shooting in the second quarter. A 12-0 run midway through the quarter gave UTM a little more breathing room and a larger lead. The Skyhawks put up 35 points in the second quarter and went to the locker room at halftime with a 56-26 lead.
The Skyhawks never lifted their foot off of the accelerator in the second half. Their 42 points in the paint matched with their hot shooting from 3-point range helped the Skyhawks cruise through the second half. The Skyhawks would later go on to win 91-52, giving them a perfect record at home against conference opponents.
Jessy Ward was the leading scorer for the Skyhawks with 19 points. She was supported by Shy Copney, who had 17 points and nine rebounds, Haley Howard, who had 16 points and Myah Taylor, who tallied 13 points. Eastern Illinois was led by Phylicia Johnson and Erica Brown, who scored 12 points each.
Eastern Illinois’s shooting woes plagued the Panthers throughout a majority of the game. EIU shot 34 percent overall (17-50), 17 percent from 3-point range (3-18) and 83 percent from the free throw line (15-18)
UTM on the other hand, had one of their better shooting performances of the season. The Skyhawks shot 53 percent overall (33-62), 46 percent from 3-point range (11-24) and 82 percent from the free throw line (14-17). The Skyhawks out rebounded EIU 38-27 and scored 31 points off of 18 EIU turnovers. The Panthers scored nine points off of 12 UTM turnovers.
The Skyhawks will play their season finale on Saturday, Feb. 27 against their OVC rivals, Murray State. Tipoff between the Skyhawks and the Racers is scheduled for 5 p.m. at the CFSB Center in Murray, Kentucky.