UT-Martin 87, Tennessee Tech 80
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP)
Jasmine Newsome and Heather Butler hugged each other at mid-court celebrating their third straight Ohio Valley Conference tournament championship together.
These junior guards know they have something really good working at Tennessee Martin, and now they want to see what they can do in the NCAA tournament their third time around as the first team to clinch an automatic berth this year.
Rickiesha Bryant scored the first five points of overtime, and Tennessee Martin beat Tennessee Tech 87-80 Saturday for its third straight OVC tournament title and NCAA berth.
Butler said she just told Newsome, the two-time OVC player of the year, that she was very proud of her.
''If it wasn't for her, we definitely wouldn't have own these ball games at all, first one, any of them,'' Butler said. ''So I'm very thankful to have this opportunity to be able to play with her in my college years.''
Now it's onto the NCAA tournament for the third time for this former NAIA program.
''Our mindset right now is not only are we glad,'' Butler said ''Yeah, we're glad we got to the NCAA tournament, but we want to win games there.''
Tennessee Martin (19-14) has won eight straight overall. The Skyhawks beat Tennessee Tech for the sixth consecutive time in this series, including each of the last three tournament title games. They also had to win three games in as many days, and they had to come from behind late in each.
Coach Kevin McMillan said they just found a way to win.
''These two make plays. Funny it was Jasmine the first night, and it was Butler last night and then tonight it was Jasmine again,'' McMillan said. ''Kiesh (Bryant) quietly ... she quietly did everything we asked her to do. That's why we're able to keep winning ballgames, but it's not real pretty.''
Tennessee Tech (19-12) snapped a four-game winning streak after being unable to finish off the Skyhawks in the final seconds of regulation after leading 72-69. The Golden Eagles fought off tears as they spoke to reporters after the game.
''It stinks to lose all three years in a row,'' Kylie Cook said.
Jasmine Newsome scored 34 points in setting an OVC tournament record with 98 points in three games. Heather Butler added 24, and Bryant finished hitting all eight of her shots and all four free throws while also grabbing 12 rebounds.
''We don't have an answer for Newsome and Butler,'' Tennessee Tech coach Jim Davis said. ''They are just so quick, and they broke us down time and time again.''
The Skyhawks trailed 72-71 after a pair of free throws by Chelsey Hall with 12.1 seconds left in regulation and needed to foul Tennessee Tech four times to send the Golden Eagles to the free throw line. They managed to do just that, putting Lashay Davis on the line with 9.2 seconds left. She hit the first, missed the second, and Tennessee Martin got the rebound.
Newsome tied it up with her layup with 2.3 seconds left, never once thinking of trying a 3 for the win.
''During the timeout, coach said if they make the free throw, you have to shoot a 3,'' Newsome said. ''If they miss it, you have to go to the rim. That was my thought the whole time. I was actually trying to draw a foul, too.''
The Golden Eagles tried to beat the buzzer, but the ball came nowhere near the bucket.
Jala Harris led Tennessee Tech with 19 points. Davis had 15, Diamond Henderson added 14 before fouling out, Molly Heady had 12 and Kylie Cook 11.
Tennessee Martin, the OVC's top-scoring team, wound up outshooting Tennessee Tech, hitting 48.4 percent (31 of 64) from the floor and making 18 of 19 from the foul line. The Golden Eagles shot 40.8 percent (29 of 71), including 31.7 percent from beyond the arc where they were 13 of 41.
Bryant scored with 4:45 to go in overtime to put Tennessee Martin ahead to stay. The senior added a three-point play for a 78-73 lead with 1:52 left. Tennessee Martin wound up outscoring Tennessee Tech 14-7 in overtime, hitting all seven free throws.
The Skyhawks' fans started chanting ''Three-peat'' as Butler and Newsome took turns hitting free throws in the final seconds for the win.
Tennessee Martin led 45-38 at halftime. When Bryant scored with 8:09 left, that put the Skyhawks up 65-58.
Then Harris hit three straight 3-pointers to start a 15-8 run for Tennessee Tech, and Davis's 3 with 4:04 remaining gave the Golden Eagles their first lead since midway through the first half at 18-17. But the Golden Eagles managed only the lone free throw by Davis after Heady's layup with 3:01 left put them up 72-69.