MURFREESBORO – Although its streak of six-straight NCAA Tournament appearances came to an end Monday, Middle Tennessee (21-9) will continue its season in the Women’s National Invitation Tournament.
MTSU will open play in the WNIT on Thursday when it hosts a first-round game in Murphy Center against Ball State (17-13). It will be the first-ever meeting between the two programs, but the two teams share many similarities.
The Blue Raiders sit at 21-9 overall. They went 14-4 in Conference USA, finishing second in the conference standings. However, MTSU fell in the semifinals of the C-USA Championship to Southern Miss last Friday, ending its shot at a seventh-straight NCAA Tournament berth.
Ball State is a member of the Mid-American Conference, or MAC. The Cardinals finished second in the MAC during the regular season, just like MTSU did in C-USA, with a 13-5 record. Ball State also mirrored MTSU by losing in its semifinal of the MAC Tournament to Eastern Michigan.
The Cardinals faced two C-USA teams this season, Charlotte and Western Kentucky. They beat Charlotte, but were blown out by WKU. The Blue Raiders also beat Charlotte and lost to WKU.
Both teams shoot about the same percentage from the field, with MTSU shooting 41.9 percent and BSU shooting 42.2 percent. The Cardinals, however, hold their opponents to just 36.7 percent shooting from the field.
MTSU should have opportunities to get second-chance points against Ball State. MTSU averages 15.7 offensive rebounds per game, while Ball State averages just 9.5. Overall, the Blue Raiders pull down 40.3 rebounds per game. The Cardinals grab 34.7.
Another similarity the programs share is that they each have a pair of double-digit scorers. MTSU is led by sophomores Olivia Jones and Ty Petty. Jones was C-USA’s leading scorer, pouring in 19.8 points per game. Petty averages 10.6 points per game. Petty has been especially important since the dismissal of star Cheyenne Parker. In the five games since Parker’s dimissal, Petty has scored in double figures in all five games, and has averaged 17.2 points per game.
Ball State’s offense is powered by the tandem of Nathalie Fontaine and Jill Morrison. Fontaine scores 16.5 points per game, while Morrison tallies 11.4 points per game.
The Blue Raiders have used home-court advantage well this season, recording an 11-3 record at the Glass House. The Cardinals have been mediocre on the road, going 7-7 this season in road games.
The winner on Thursday will face the winner of the Arkansas State-Western Michigan game in the second round.
Middle Tennessee hosts Ball State this Thursday at Murphy Center. Tip-off is scheduled for 7 p.m. CST.
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