Photo by Austin Lewis | Sidelines Archive
Middle Tennessee (13-7, C-USA 7-2) welcomed Western Kentucky (17-3, C-USA 8-1) to Murphy Center Saturday evening. The Lady Hilltoppers came into the game on a 14-game win streak, with their last loss coming to Ole Miss on Dec. 2. In a back and forth affair, the Blue Raiders were able to rebound late and hand Western Kentucky their first conference loss 83-75.
“They’re a good basketball team,” Head Coach Rick Insell said after the win. “Their record right now is 17-3, and I think the last person to beat them was an Insell and that was Matt, now it’s Rick.”
WKU started hot on offense and played aggressive defense by trapping and using full court pressure. In response, the Blue Raiders worked towards getting shots at the perimeter, making three 3-pointers in the first quarter, while only converting two shots from the rest of the floor.
Despite the Blue Raiders’ offensive woes, they remained close throughout the first quarter and found a rhythm in the second. Ty Petty ignited the crowd and electrified the rest of the team. The three’s continued to pour in from the MTSU, two coming back to back, one from Brea Edwards and the other from Abbey Sissom.
The hot shooting from behind the arc was key late in the second quarter, leading to a 44-38 lead for Middle Tennessee at the half. Following halftime, the Hilltoppers came out of the break red-hot. They increased their intensity while the Blue Raiders looked exhausted, which led to a 19-5 run by the Hilltoppers.
Following halftime, the Hilltoppers came out of the break red-hot. They increased their intensity while MTSU looked exhausted. A 19-5 run by Western Kentucky swung momentum back the other direction.
The Blue Raiders struggled to convert on their baskets in the fourth quarter, so they fought their way to the line to pick up some easy points, which caused the Hilltoppers to loosen their defensive pressure.
“We’ve been a good free-throw shooting team all year. I think we’re number one in the conference,” Insell said. “Early on we got to missing those free throws and I thought ‘what in the world is going on?’ but late, we started knocking them down,”
Another Abbey Sissom three, with four minutes remaining in the fourth, gave the Blue Raiders a two-possession lead. Perhaps the dagger came from a Ty Petty assist to Rebecca Reuter late in the fourth that extended the lead to six. Middle Tennessee didn’t look back, sinking free throws in the dying seconds, keeping a solid Hilltopper team at bay.
Brea Edwards finished with 29 points, going 7-for-10 from the floor and 5-for-6 from behind the arc. Ty Petty ended up with 11 assists on the night and 17 points. Abbey Sissom had one of her best showings this season by finishing with 16 points and four 3-pointers of her own.
The Blue Raiders hit the road once again next week, taking on Florida Atlantic next Thursday night at 6 p.m.
To contact Sports Editor Connor Ulrey, email firstname.lastname@example.org.