MARTIN, Tenn. -- Ah, the ol' defensive clinic.
Thursday night at the Elam Center, Murray State held UT Martin to 9-for-30 shooting, a 27-16 rebounding deficit and eight turnovers in the first 20 minutes, eventually pulling down an emphatic 84-62 victory against the Skyhawks to move to 5-0 in Ohio Valley Conference play.
UTM's top two scorers, forward Quintin Dove (2-for-6, two turnovers) and point guard Parker Stewart (1-for-6, three turnovers), came into the game averaging more than 22.0 ppg in four OVC games but never really found traction early.
And while the Racers (12-5) went only 4-for-15 from the arc in those first 20 minutes, they carved from inside, going 10-for-18 inside 15 feet.
By the end, MSU had earned a plus-22 rebounding margin (48-26), 21 assists on 30 made baskets (a 70% assist rate), a 23-2 bench scoring margin, 17 second-chance points on 14 offensive boards, and 20 points off of 11 Skyhawks turnovers.
Call it attention to detail, especially on guys like Dove and Stewart, who have simply been shredding on the offensive side of the ball this season and still finished with a combined 33 points (18 for Dove) in the loss.
MSU had four in double figures, as the balance continues for this team: sophomore Tevin Brown (20 points, four rebounds, six assists, one turnover), freshman Demond Robinson (10 points, seven rebounds, two assists, three blocks), senior Jaiveon Eaves (14 points, five assists) and sophomore KJ Williams (14 points, 12 rebounds).
MSU never trailed, and opened the game on a 9-2 run courtesy of four points from Robinson and five from Eaves.
A triple from UTM forward Steve Wooten Jr., finally returned from injury, cut it to 9-5 … but the Skyhawks (5-11, 1-4 OVC) would be no closer for the rest of the game, shooting 35.7% from the floor and 16.7% from the arc for the game.
"(Rebounding) was a big point of emphasis for us," noted MSU's fifth-year coach Matt McMahon after the win. "We've got a lot of respect for Quintin Dove and what he does on the glass. He's averaging 25 and 11 and seven offensive boards in the last three games, so I thought we were very good there.
"And again, if we can hold teams to that 35% shooting on the floor, and give them just five second-chance opportunities, then we should be able to win the game."
Robinson rolls again
By the first media timeout, Robinson had four points, three rebounds and two assists, in what was another four-minute spurt of extreme production right at the game's tip.
MSU missed three 3-pointers on the opening possession but came away with three offensive rebounds. The fourth offensive attempt? A massive putback slam from Robinson to start the scoring.
And it's becoming signature.
"The thing about Demond is he plays extremely hard," McMahon said. "He's really starting to understand how to play and create on the angles and get scores. His dunk to start the game, that was beautiful to watch.
"Just thrilled with his development, and I think when you work hard and have the right mindset every day, you're going to keep getting better. Extremely excited about his future with us."
MSU immolated UTM's zone defense, with Brown, Eaves and DaQuan Smith (nine points, four assists) combining for 15 of the team's 21 assists and just five combined turnovers.
"I love the unselfishness of our team, and we have multiple players that are making plays for other guys," McMahon said. "And I think we've been an improved screening team over the last six or seven weeks, and it's leading to easier shot opportunities for us. And even tonight, when we were 8-for-24 from three, I thought we got some really good looks. Want to continue to shoot those, but I'm really pleased with our unselfishness."
MURRAY ST. (12-5)
Brown 7-14 4-6 20, Eaves 4-9 5-6 14, A.Smith 2-5 4-4 8, D.Smith 3-8 0-0 9, K.Williams 5-9 3-4 14, Robinson 5-8 0-2 10, Carter 0-3 0-0 0, Gilmore 3-4 0-0 7, Holliday 1-2 0-0 2, Kamba 0-0 0-0 0, R.Thomas 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 30-62 16-22 84.
UT MARTIN (5-11)
Stewart 4-11 7-7 15, Hawthorne 5-14 3-4 15, Dove 5-11 8-11 18, Sertovic 0-3 0-0 0, Wooten 5-10 1-1 12, Aguiar 0-3 0-0 0, M.Thomas 0-1 0-0 0, Rustin 0-0 0-0 0, Harris 0-0 0-0 0, Polla 0-2 0-0 0, Pierce 1-1 0-0 2. Totals 20-56 19-23 62.
Halftime: Murray St. 43-24. 3-Point Goals: Murray St. 8-24 (D.Smith 3-6, Brown 2-6, Gilmore 1-1, K.Williams 1-1, Eaves 1-6, Holliday 0-1, Carter 0-3), UT Martin 3-18 (Hawthorne 2-6, Wooten 1-4, Aguiar 0-1, Dove 0-1, Sertovic 0-2, Stewart 0-4). Rebounds: Murray St. 43 (K.Williams 12), UT Martin 24 (Hawthorne 7). Assists: Murray St. 21 (Brown 6), UT Martin 8 (Stewart 4). Total Fouls: Murray St. 19, UT Martin 15. A: 3,209 (4,800).