Three players were ejected from an Ohio Valley Conference Tournament quarterfinal game Thursday night after Southern Illinois-Edwardsville forward DeeJuan Pruitt struck Tennessee-Martin forward Rifen Miguel in the face late in the first half. Both players were ejected, as was UT-Martin’s Jalen Myers after a scuffle ensued in the aftermath of Pruitt’s blow to Miguel’s head.
The sequence left Tennessee-Martin shorthanded, but the Skyhawks ultimately rallied from a 10-point deficit in the final four minutes for an 81-75 victory.
Myers appeared to strike back at Pruitt in defense of his teammate, and Miguel pursued Pruitt as he retreated from the scene. The blow from Pruitt came around the four-minute mark as he and Miguel walked back up the floor face-to-face following an SIUE basket.
The officiating crew stopped play for several minutes to review the play as Miguel received medical attention following the strike, which drew blood. Ultimately, the ejections left UT-Martin with just seven players available for the end of the first half and the entire second. While it was the SIUE player, Pruitt, who threw the punch, the Cougars were fortunate to avoid additional ejections.
Both staffs kept the situation from escalating by immediately turning their attention to keep players from leaving the bench to join the fracas.
Things only got worse for Tennessee-Martin in the second half when star guard Jordan Sears went down with an injury at the 11:57 mark and was helped off the floor, temporarily leaving the Skyhawks even more shorthanded. But Sears returned three minutes later and scored a whopping 19 points over the game’s final nine minutes to lead UT-Martin into the semifinals.