MT improves to 13-4, 4-0 in C-USA
MURFREESBORO, Tenn. – Program win No. 895 came in sweet fashion for Middle Tennessee Saturday night.
The Lady Raiders (13-4, 4-0) had little trouble dispatching the visiting LA Tech Lady Techsters (9-8, 1-3), pulling within five victories of 900 with a 75-38 win. They’re now 895-413 all-time in the program’s 44-year history.
“[LA Tech] exerted a lot of energy to win at UAB, and it showed tonight, especially in the second half,” MT Head Coach Rick Insell said. “Then, our kids just executed our offense, and I think that was the difference in the game.
“We’re pretty special. We’re undersized, we’re not really quick laterally, we don’t jump really well – we just win.”
A trio of girls – two seniors and a freshman – guided Middle Tennessee to a big lead early. Then, the Lady Raiders turned on the defensive pressure to bring the win home.
Seniors Alex Johnson and A’Queen Hayes and freshman Taylor Sutton combined to score all of the Raiders’ 19 points in the first quarter, but LA Tech held on to trail by just two at the first stoppage.
That’s as close as the Lady Techsters would get.
The Lady Raiders held the visitors to just 21 points over the next three quarters combined, going on a 56-21 run that all but ran LA Tech out of the building. Their 38 points given up were the fewest since allowing 30 in a 79-30 win over FIU on March 5, 2015.
“I thought, more than anything, our coaching staff had our team ready,” Insell said. “I think they really got our team to invest in what they were going to do offensively. After the first quarter, we kind of sunk in on them.”
Middle Tennessee’s defense went into the night first in Conference USA in opponents’ scoring, allowing just 56.5 points per game, and in conference-only play it had given up just 49 per contest.
Saturday may have been its best performance, though, allowing the Lady Techsters to shoot just 26 percent (12 for 46) and forcing 18 turnovers. They were 7 for 35 from the floor in the last three quarters.
Maybe MT’s most impressive defender was Hayes. Not only did she pour in game highs with 18 points (8-for-13 shooting) and 13 rebounds (career high), but she matched up defensively against LA Tech’s Kierra Anthony, who went into the game first in C-USA and fourth nationally averaging 25.1 points per game.
Anthony managed just 11 points on 4-of-10 shooting, and she turned the ball over three times in 29 minutes.
“I just wanted to stay in front of here and alter her shot,” Hayes said. “I knew I had to play off-ball defense and I couldn’t fall asleep off of the ball. Every time she gave the ball up, I tried to make sure she didn’t get the ball back in her hands.”
Sutton finished with 16 points on 7-of-16 shooting, while Johnson rounded out MT’s double-digit scoring with 11 to go with five rebounds. Freshman Alexis Whittington and redshirt junior Jordan Majors had nine points apiece.
Middle Tennessee will make a trip to Texas for its next two games. It’ll be at UTSA on Jan. 17, followed by a Jan. 19 matchup with UTEP.
“It’s a business trip,” Hayes said. “We just have to pack up [the defense] with us and go.”
Josh Vardaman is the staff writer for goblueraiders.com. Follow him on Twitter @J_Vardaman and also follow @MTAthletics for more on the Blue Raiders.