MURFREESBORO – Middle Tennessee (14-5, 8-1 C-USA) used a strong second-half performance by Cheyenne Parker to score a dominant 74-53 victory over UTEP (8-10, 3-6 C-USA).
In the win, Parker became the first women’s basketball player at MTSU to ever record a triple-double.
Parker, who sat out the last ten minutes of the first half with two fouls, used her stellar second-half play to set the tone for the team.
The senior finished with 18 points, 17 rebounds and 12 blocks. She also shot 7-of-10 from the field, and 4-of-6 from the free throw line in becoming only the second player in Blue Raider history, men’s or women’s, to finish with a triple-double.
“It’s an honor and I’m grateful,” Parker said about her historic game. “I felt it coming, eventually. Usually once I’m in foul trouble, I stay in foul trouble.”
Offensively, Olivia Jones was the other pillar of the game for the Blue Raiders.
Jones dominated the first half, scoring 17 of her 31 points on 8-of-16 shooting. In the second half, the sophomore continued to find ways to score inside, finishing with 31 points, 5 rebounds and 4 steals.
“I really focus on our team, and start out focusing on defense,” Jones said about her game. “I saw my shot wasn’t falling, so I realized I had to crash the boards, and it finally came to me. It’s just effort, and the will to win. It’s something we don’t take for granted.”
In the first half, the Blue Raiders started strong offensively, getting out to a 12-0 lead before the first UTEP point was scored on a free throw.
The lead swelled to as many as 18 in the first half, but a strong final two minutes by UTEP cut the lead to 32-24 at the halftime break.
“We had no communication skills, and that’s what I was upset about,” MTSU coach Rick Insell said about the last minutes of the half. “It’s something we talked about, I can assure you that.”
In the second half the Blue Raiders were strong rebounding the ball, out-rebounding UTEP by a margin of 26-20 in the second frame. Middle Tennessee finished with a slight 44-43 advantage in rebounding.
The Blue Raiders were also strong passing the ball Saturday, assisting on 22 of their 28 made baskets.
“We talked about that at halftime too, making the extra pass,” Insell said about ball movement. “That gave our shooters more time, and they were able to knock some shots down.”
Overall, it proved to be a strong showing for the Blue Raiders against a tough UTEP team.
The Blue Raiders were solid inside, outscoring the Miners 34-20 in the paint. As a team, MTSU had ten steals and scored 14 points off of turnovers in the game.
Offensively for UTEP, Sparkle Taylor led the way after finishing with 14 points and ten rebounds in a double-double effort.
Daeshianna McCants finished with 13 points and grabbed six rebounds on the day.
The Blue Raiders will look to continue their five-game winning streak as they travel to take on Southern Miss Thursday. Tip-off is scheduled for 6 p.m. CST.
For more Blue Raider sports, follow us at www.mtsusidelines.com, on Facebook at MTSU Sidelines and on Twitter at @Sidelines_Sport.
To contact sports editor Connor Grott, email firstname.lastname@example.org or reach him on Twitter at @Connor_Grott.