UT-Martin enters tournament undefeated

Bob Reynolds, Sports Editor

The Tennessee-Martin Skyhawks enter the Ohio Valley Conference Tournament with a 16-0 record in conference and claimed the regular season OVC title.

The No. 1 seeded Skyhawks will play the Eastern women’s basketball team that finished 7-9 in the conference, at noon Wednesday in the first round of the Ohio Valley Conference tournament.

The Skyhawks made their way to the NCAA Tournament last season as the No. 13 seed and lost to No. 4 seed North Carolina 60-58 in Chapel Hill, NC.

Skyhawk coach Kevin McMillan said what his team did up until now does not matter, because it’s a new season.

“It’s the fun time of the year,” he said. “We have won and been able to put together a good streak here, but none of that matters now. Hopefully we’ll be playing well Wednesday at noon.”

Eastern coach Debbie Black said any team has to go through Tennessee-Martin to win the tournament, and hopes her players are ready for the challenge.

“They are excited about the opportunity,” she said. “(UT-Martin) has proven to be the best team for a while in this conference. Why not start out with them. They are a terrific team. They have a variety of weapons. We just have to be ready to play.”

The tournament has gone back to the format to where the No. 1 seed will play the No. 8 seed and the No. 2 will play the No. 7 in the first day of the tournament, and the winners of those games would play Friday.

Everyone else will finish the first round on Thursday and the winners of those games will play the winners of the Wednesday games on Friday.

Southern Illinois-Edwardsville coach Paula Buscher said every matchup in this tournament is great.

“I think any team has some potential to do some damage,” she said. “It is going to be really interesting and for all of us coaches to keep our players focused on the game at hand.”

Edwardsville finished the conference season with a 13-3 record and will be playing No. 7 Austin Peay (7-9 OVC) in the second game on Wednesday.

Other matchups include No. 3 seed Tennessee State (12-4) taking on No. 6 seed Morehead State (8-8) at noon Thursday.

No 4 seed Belmont (10-6) will take on No. 5 seed Jacksonville (10-6) and will play at 2 p.m. Thursday.

Morehead State first-year coach Craig Todd said he is excited about the opportunity to be in the OVC tournament for the first time in his career.

“One of our biggest goals was to get to the tournament,” he said. “We have a tough first round matchup. We are hoping we do more than just make an appearance.”

The 52nd OVC tournament will start Wednesday and end Saturday, at the Municipal Auditorium in Nashville.

The winner of the OVC Tournament will receive the league’s automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.


Bob Reynolds can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected].