Racers take tough loss to UT Martin

A 3-point shot by senior forward Jessica Winfrey came up short in the final seconds and women’s basketball fell 88-87 to the three-time OVC champion UT Martin Saturday.

In the Racers’ conference home-opener the top two scoring teams in the conference were in full force, hitting 18 3-pointers in a game with eight players score double digits.

“It was two very good offensive teams that were really going at each other, and it is tough because I feel bad for our players who played their hearts out,” Head Coach Rob Cross said.

While the shot by Winfrey came up short, the Racers nearly overcame an eight-point deficit in the game’s final five minutes.

“When you lose a game by one point, the players will start to think about the shots they missed,” Cross said. “(Jessica) was upset because she missed some shots and I hope that she understands that her second half was great and that she shakes it off.”

The game begin with the Skyhawks gaining an early advantage as All-OVC guards Heather Butler and Jasmine Newsome led UT Martin to a 19-13 lead early in the first half. Murray State rallied with a 9-0 run with 3s from freshman guards Janssen Starks and Julia Fox and forward Jashae Lee to gain a 22-19 advantage.

With the game tied, UT Martin used a 14-4 run led by their guards to surge to their largest lead of the night, 33-26.

With the Racers down by four, they began their comeback late in the first half using a 13-5 run in the final four minutes to take a 54-50 lead into the locker room.

In the second half, scoring returned to a normal pace and the Racers surged to a seven-point lead as Winfrey scored underneath the basket with 15 minutes remaining.

The Skyhawks battled back and used 10 second-half Racer turnovers to score 15 points to create an 11-2 run that gave the Skyhawks the lead for good. The Racers tried to rally, scoring six straight to get within one point, but a free throw by Winfrey was missed in the last minute, setting up the final shot.

While the final shot didn’t go in for the Racers, Winfrey said the loss showed that this team had a special trait.

“We have a lot of heart,” Winfrey said. “If we can play that hard every game we will be fine and make it a long way.”

Junior guard Keiona Kirby led the Racers with 27 points. Winfrey pulled down a career-high 20 rebounds in the loss, with 19 coming in the second half.

The Racers will face Southeast Missouri at 7 p.m. Monday night at the CFSB Center.

Story by Tom Via, Staff writer