The Tennessee State Tigers fell flat against UT Martin 75-59 Thursday night at The Elam Center.
Despite shooting 52.2% from the field, TSU was unable to overcome 29 turnovers and the Skyhawks shooting 93.1% from the free-throw line.
The game was initially close at halftime, 34-28, in favor of the Skyhawks, but the Tigers ended up being outscored in the third quarter 24-9, which ended up being the difference-maker in the final score.
Starring for Tennessee State today were Gia Adams (14 points), Erica Haynes-Overton (12 points, four rebounds, three assists, and three steals), Kianni Westbrook (10 points, eight rebounds, one steal, and one block), Saniah Parker (8 points, five rebounds, three assists, three steals, and one block), Lyric Cole (7 points, five rebounds, and two steals) and Ashley Malone (6 points).
This was a very critical matchup in terms of positioning in the Ohio Valley Conference as the Tigers now fall to sixth in the conference at 7-10 and the Skyhawks improve to 8-9 and fifth place. This loss also forces TSU to split the season series, as the Tigers had previously won 71-67 on Jan. 12.
The game started as a defensive struggle as in the first five minutes of the first quarter, the score was tied at 4, and the Tigers had six turnovers during that stretch, which eventually allowed the Skyhawks to go on a 13-7 run to end the period. Sharnecce Currie-Jelks had 8 of UT Martin’s 17 points, while Shae Littleford made the first 3-pointer for her team with a minute left in order to put them up by 8.
Most of the second quarter was basically a back-and-forth as Westbrook, Overton, Adams, Parker, and Cole all took on the scoring burden for the Tigers. Adams and Westbrook both hit bank shots in order to bring Tennessee State within three, while Cole made an inside shot to make it a 1-point deficit.
Parker later managed to tie the game at 27 by getting a steal and scoring in transition. It was part of a swarming defense that was able to force several turnovers by the Skyhawks. Still, unfortunately, it was rendered moot as the Tigers were unable to take care of the ball themselves with 18 turnovers in the first half.
The game eventually got away from Tennessee State in the third quarter as the Tigers had no answers for Paige Pipkin (17 points, five rebounds, two assists, three steals, and one block), Currie-Jelks (27 points, six rebounds, three assists, four steals, and two blocks) and Littleford (20 points).
In the third quarter alone, Littleford had 8 points, with half coming via free throws and jump shots making up the other half. Currie-Jelks also chipped in 10 points while Pipkin scored 4 points as the three of them combined for 22 of the Skyhawks’ 24 third-quarter points, which effectively ended this entire match.
Next for Tennessee State will be a home game back in Nashville against Southern Indiana this Saturday. If TSU wins, the team could potentially earn the No. 6 seed in the OVC Basketball Tournament.