NASHVILLE -- The Morehead State men’s basketball team used an 11-0 run midway through the second half and hung on for a 73-66 victory over UT Martin in the opening round of the 2013 Ohio Valley Conference Men’s Basketball Tournament on Wednesday night at Municipal Auditorium.
The fifth-seeded Eagles improve to 15-17 overall, while the eighth-seeded Skyhawks finish their season 9-21. MSU also moves to 31-13 in the all-time series with its eighth straight win over UTM.
Morehead State advances to the quarterfinal round on Thursday at 7 p.m. ET, where it will face fourth-seeded Tennessee State. MSU won both regular-season games against TSU this year.
“We didn’t play our best game of the season, but I’m really proud of my guys for playing hard and finding a way to win against a quality opponent like UT Martin,” Head Coach Sean Woods said.
Morehead State opened up its biggest advantage of 15 points with 7:08 left in the second half, but UT Martin hung around by connecting on 19-of-27 from the free-throw line after intermission.
Despite leading the entire second stanza, MSU committed 17 fouls after the break. The Eagles were whistled for three infractions over the final 1:07, which trimmed their lead from 12 to five.
“We didn’t finish the way our coaching staff would’ve liked, but it doesn’t matter how pretty the games look at this point,” Woods said. “It’s all about surviving and advancing -- or your season is over.”
Both teams were called for 26 fouls in the affair. UT Martin finished at 74 percent (25-of-34) from the charity stripe, while Morehead State wrapped up the night at 61 percent (22-of-36).
Senior Milton Chavis led three Eagles in double figures with 14 points, while junior Bruce Reed and sophomore Angelo Warner tossed in 11 apiece. Chavis drilled 5-of-8 from the floor.
Senior Kahlil Owens paced Morehead State with nine rebounds in just 17 minutes off the bench, while senior Devon Atkinson returned from an injury to hand out a game-high four assists.
UTM junior Mike Liabo converted on 10-of-11 from the free-throw stripe en route to a game-best 24 points. Sophomore Terence Smith added 12 points, while senior Jeremy Washington scored 12.
Morehead State continued its dominance in the rebounding department with a 46-23 edge, including 21-6 on the offensive end. The Eagles are now +173 in that column over the last 19 contests.
“That was the game right there,” Woods said. “I thought we had some mismatches inside and our rebounding advantage was huge. Our 42-22 edge in paint points was also a big key tonight.”
Morehead State also registered a 27-4 upper hand in bench points. Ten of the 11 Eagles who played scored. MSU’s reserves have now topped their opponents in 28 of 32 games this year.
Morehead State turned in a 78-69 win over Tennessee State on Jan. 26 at Johnson Arena, and a 101-100 victory over the Tigers in a nationally-televised game on Feb. 28 at the Gentry Center.
Thursday’s game will be webcast on OVCDigitalNetwork.com. It will also be broadcast on WIVY-96.3 FM in Morehead, with Chuck Mraz and Jason Blanton on the call. Live video, audio and statistics links will be available via MSUEagles.com. Live in-game updates can also be found on Twitter @MSUAthletics