By Rickey Fuquay, Jr.//Contributing Writer
MURFREESBORO – A strong second half performance was not enough as Middle Tennessee (24-10) suffered a 69-57 loss to Temple (20-16) Sunday afternoon at the Murphy Center.
With the loss, MTSU’s season is over, coming up one win shy of the WNIT Final Four.
The Blue Raiders could not have possibly gotten off to a worse start. They did make a bucket until sophomore guard Ty Petty sank a jumper at the 15:21 mark, giving MTSU an early 4-2 lead. They started off the game 1-of-5 from the field, and things only got worse.
MTSU never found its rhythm shooting the ball in the first half. The Blue Raiders shot just 5-of-32 (15.6 percent) from the field in the first half. Temple shot 13-of-33 (39.4 percent) from the field in the opening stanza. MTSU headed to the locker room down 35-15, and it was lucky it was only that much.
With its season on the line, MTSU came out firing in the second half. MTSU opened the half on a 15-0 run that cut the Owls’ lead to five, 35-30, with 16:06 remaining. It was as close as it would get though. Temple responded with a 13-4 run that propelled the Owls to a 48-34 lead at the 10:18 mark.
The lead hovered around 10 for the next few minutes. The Blue Raiders made one last stab at coming back, using a 7-0 run to pull within six, 55-49, with 5:51 remaining in regulation. The Owls answered with an 8-0 that put the game out of reach, helping them to the 69-57 victory.
Sophomore guard Olivia Jones led the team on offense with 24 points. She also recorded five steals. Petty added 10 points, three rebounds, four assists and three steals.
It was a historic day for sophomore guard/forward Brea Edwards, as she recorded an MTSU postseason record 20 rebounds, breaking the previous mark of 16 rebounds held by both Ebony Rowe and Icelyn Elie from MTSU’s 2012 NCAA Tournament game against Vanderbilt.
“It means a lot, especially coming in having only two years here,” Edwards said. “That’s something I can say that I did here.”
For the Owls, Tyonna Williams led the team with 23 points. She also recorded six rebounds and five assists. Feyonda Fitzgerald also reached double figures, adding 15 points. Her stat line also included three rebounds, three assists and four steals.
First-half shooting woes were the story of the game. MTSU managed to shoot just 15.6 percent from the field in opening 20 minutes, and just 8.3 percent (1-of-12) from three-point range. The Owls also shut down the Blue Raiders’ opportunities on the offensive glass. MTSU pulled down only 18 offensive rebounds, turning those into just nine second-chance points. Temple scored 20 second-chance points.
The Blue Raiders will look ahead to next season. Many of their key players will return next season. The biggest loss is senior guard Shanice Cason.
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