Defense saved the day for the UT-Martin Skyhawks against UT-Rio Grande Valley on Friday night. The Skyhawks fell behind for a hot second late, but responded with an outstanding defensive effort to finish the game on a 14-5 run to win 72-64.
After leading for most of the second half, UT-Martin surrendered its slight advantage and fell behind 59-58 with 6:20 to go on two Shaquille Hines free throws. The 'Hawks grabbed the lead back on Twymond Howard free throws and never trailed again. A Richard Lee jumper, a couple of Chandler Rowe free throws and a Jacolby Mobley layup put the visiting squad up 67-59 with just 1:55 to go.
Shutting down Hines was essential in pulling out the win for Coach Heath Schroyer's team, as Hines did finish with 17 points, but none over the last 6:20. Hines did not make a field goal over the game's last 10 minutes.
Let me make this clear, the latter UT is in Edinburg, Texas, where this game was played. UT-Martin trekked from Tennessee to grab this much-needed win.
Richard Lee's efficient night of 16 points on 7-10 shooting proved big. Mobley came off the bench to score 15 and was instrumental in the win. Twymond Howard's double double of 16 points and 12 rebounds also helped pave the way for the winning unit. The Skyhawks controlled the boards from the outset, and finished with a 46-30 advantage in that category for the night.
UTRGV had already defeated one OVC squad, with an 83-74 win over Southeast Missouri State already under its belt. The Vaqueros trio of J.J. Thompson, Shaquille Hines and Dakota Slaughter combined for 47 points, but its 36 percent shooting (and 6-25 effort from beyond the arc), wasn't nearly enough to grab the home win.
Coming off three straight losses, the Skyhawks can breathe a welcome sigh of relief for the time being as they get a couple days off. With winnable games on the horizon in the likes of Saint Louis, Alcorn State and Arkansas State, the coming weeks could produce the type of (better) UT-Martin team that some experts anticipated.