MURFREESBORO, Tenn. – Middle Tennessee (19-8, 13-4 C-USA) used a 22-2 run at the end of the first half to spark a dominating performance Thursday, blowing out Florida International (3-25, 0-17 C-USA) by a final of 79-30.
The Blue Raiders and the Panthers were tied for a total of 41 seconds Thursday afternoon, in a contest that Middle Tennessee controlled from the start.
“I thought we did a pretty good job on the boards early,” Head Coach Rick Insell said after the win. “I’m proud of the girls, we’re a different team. Get in a little better shape, and we’ll be alright.”
Thursday’s game was moved up from its original start time of 8 p.m. to a 4 p.m. due to inclement weather. In an effort to battle the bad weather, and get people to the game, Thursday’s game was free to all people who could make it to the Murphy Center. Final reported attendance for the afternoon game was 3,605.
The Blue Raiders led 19-14 with 11:16 left in the first half, but a 22-2 run fueled by sophomore Ty Petty led to a 41-16 advantage for MTSU at the half. Petty led all scorers with 15 in the first half.
Middle Tennessee forced 16 turnovers in the first half, and scored 18 points off of them. The Blue Raiders were strong both on the glass and in the paint in the first half as well, holding a 24-12 advantage in the rebounding category, and scoring 24 points in the paint in the first 20 minutes.
MTSU kept up the intensity in the second half, building their lead throughout the final 20 minutes. The second half was nearly identical as the first, with the Blue Raiders outscoring FIU by 24 in the final frame.
“We’re just getting back in rhythm,” said sophomore Olivia Jones. “We just tried to start having more fun, and be more comfortable playing.”
Jones led all scorers on the afternoon, earning a double-double, finishing with 21 points and 10 rebounds. Petty finished with 20 points on the day on 9-of-14 shooting from the field.
MTSU had 10 players score in the game. The Blue Raiders passed the ball well, assisting on 17 of their 32 baskets.
MTSU shot better in the second half, and was stouter defensively as well. The Blue Raiders shot 15-of-33 in the second half, compared to 4-of-27 for the Panthers. Overall, MTSU finished 32-of-73 from the field on 43.8 percent shooting. FIU finished the game 11-of-47 from the field (23.4 percent).
The Blue Raiders forced a whopping 29 turnovers overall and scored 36 points off those. MTSU also scored 44 points in the paint, compared to 18 by FIU.
The Blue Raiders out-rebounded the Panthers 46-36, including 22 offensive rebounds. MTSU finished with 15 second-chance points, and 16 fast-break points. The Blue Raider bench contributed heavily in the second half, finishing with 24 points combined.
Kiandre’a Pound led FIU offensively, scoring 12 points and grabbing seven rebounds. Pound scored 10 of her 12 points in the opening minutes of the first half, but the Blue Raider defense kept her in check the rest of the game.
Marita Davydova finished with 11 points for the Panthers, and also grabbed seven rebounds.
Middle Tennessee hosts Florida Atlantic Saturday for Senior Day. Shanice Cason and MacKenzie Sells will take the court at Murphy Center for the final time. Tip-off is scheduled for 10:30 a.m. CST.
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