Thursday night the Blue Raiders played its first exhibition game of the season, dominating Martin Methodist 93-44 with a varied attack that saw five MTSU players score in double digits.
A big part of Middle Tennessee’s success can be attributed to their shooting and defensive effort.
The Lady Raiders shot 40.2 percent from the field and 32.6 percent behind the arc while holding Martin Methodist to a lack luster 32.4 percent from the field and 11.1 percent from three.
While they had a good performance shooting the ball, Middle Tennessee looks to be better as the season continues.
“We’re going to shoot the three,” Head Coach Rick Insell said. “Brea Edwards was five-of-nine. China (Dow) was two-of-five. You won’t see (Abbey) Sissom go one-of-eight. You won’t see that. She’s too good of a shooter.”
“Olivia (Jones), she is better than three-for-nine. Everybody we’ve got can shoot the three,” Insell added. “You even saw some of our posts go out and shoot the three. TiAnna (Porter) hit one. Caya (Williams) shot one. I think (Rebecca Reuter) might have shot one. If we get an open three, we’re going to take it.”
Brea Edwards, a junior transfer from Central Arizona Community College, impressed coming off the bench with 16 points on 5-of-9 shooting from three-point range, and added one assist and a steal in only 10 minutes of action.
“It was a great feeling (after) last year I didn’t play at all,” Edwards said. “Just coming in, I was real nervous.”
“Once I just hit my first three, you know, my first shot, I just eased into it and it was fine,” Edwards added.
Freshman forward Gabby Lyon put up a huge game in her debut with 11 points, 10 rebounds, three blocks and six of the team’s 20 steals. Lyon finished with a double-double in her first college game in a team-high 34 minutes.
“I was nervous at first but once the game got started and everything kind of settled down,” Lyon said. “I still have a lot to work on, but I think I played decent.”
Sophomore guard Olivia Jones, the defending Conference USA freshman of the year, played well in 26 minutes. Jones had 14 points, six assists on only two turnovers, nine rebounds and two steals.
Sophomore guard Ty Petty also contributed with 10 points, four assists, three steals (with no turnovers) and a rebound coming off the bench.
“For the first game, I think we played pretty well,” Petty said. “Coach (Insell) was on us to just come out and stay with our rules. As long as we stay with our rules, he was going to be satisfied.”
“He knew we were going to have some mistakes here or there, but as long as we stuck to our rules and played together he would be satisfied. I think we played (well),” Petty added.
As important as the shooting was in this game, the defense and rebounding might have been more important.
The Blue Raiders forced 31 total turnovers and had 58 rebounds compared to Martin Methodist’s 26 rebounds.
After the completion of the Blue Raiders’ final exhibition game, MTSU will look to start the season on a high note when they open up their season.
The Blue Raiders have been named Conference USA’s No. 1 team in the preseason poll despite losing six seniors, including All-American honorable mention and C-USA Player of the Year Ebony Rowe.
Rowe averaged 21.6 points and 11.8 rebounds per game on her way to winning several awards last season.
Rowe’s shoes will be hard to fill, but the Blue Raiders have made moves and put players in the right position to ease the transition.
“We don’t know very much about them at all. I’m watching to be sure our new players are in the right spots and that they have the right footwork and are doing the right things in that respect,” Coach Insell said.
The Blue Raiders have two transfers that have potential in Edwards and Cheyenne Parker, along with three new freshmen in Lyon, Abbey Sissom and Rebecca Reuter.
But, MTSU’s biggest potential threat is returning sophomore and Murfreesboro native, Olivia Jones.
Jones has already been named to the preseason All-Conference C-USA team. Jones was the only player to be picked for the team.
Jones helped lead the Blue Raiders to a 29-5 record and the team’s seventh NCAA Tournament appearance in nine years last season. She averaged 8.4 points and 7.4 rebounds per game after starting 33 of 34 games.
Even though the Blue Raiders were named number one in the preseason poll, it should be noted that it is by a slim margin.
The Blue Raiders have 181 points with six first place votes compared to Western Kentucky’s 179 points and five first place votes.
Western Kentucky could be Middle Tennessee’s biggest threat with three Hilltoppers being named to the preseason All-Conference team, including Chasity Gooch who was named the C-USA preseason player of the year.
The Blue Raiders take on the University of Alabama-Huntsville at home Monday at 5 p.m. to wrap up their final exhibition game.
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