Photo by John Rollins // Staff Photographer
Middle Tennessee (17-7, 11-2 C-USA) took on Southern Miss (12-11, 5-7 C-USA) in their annual Play 4 Kay game, honoring former NC State women’s basketball head coach Kay Yow. The Blue Raiders won their eighth straight game, beating Southern Miss 74-44.
The Blue Raiders started out 0-for-4 from the field in a painful first quarter, as both teams played extremely sloppy on both ends of the court.
MTSU had an obvious size advantage over the Lady Eagles but missed their first three shots in the paint until Brea Edwards finished beautifully with her right hand on an entry pass from Gabby Lyon. After the first quarter, Southern Miss and Middle Tennessee combined for a mere 10-for-27 from the field.
“I think the first possession, we were trying to go up 15-0, and, ya know, we can’t do that,” head coach Rick Insell said. “I don’t know if we were a little nervous because of the pink day or what, but they settled down and put the ball where it needed to be.”
The second quarter was just as painful to watch with the plethora of whistles and slow play. There were 21 fouls called by the referees in the first half, not including the surplus of travels and other elementary mistakes. In total, Middle Tennessee and Southern Miss combined for 44 fouls, five fouls short of the Blue Raiders’ season-high.
“If we hit free throws, I love it. But 13-for-20, that’s not real good. 65%, that’s probably the lowest free throw total we’ve had all season. You win championships rebounding, knocking down your free throws, and playing defense,” Insell said.
Both teams did improve their second quarter field goal percentage, as Southern Miss shot 7-for-16 from the field and Middle Tennessee shot 6-for-8 from the field. Rebecca Reuter scored six of the Blue Raiders 22 second-quarter points in the paint and finished with 13 points and five rebounds.
Edwards scored five points in the first two quarters while grabbing five boards, and Johnson finished the half with 10 points. The Blue Raiders finished the first half shooting 60%, leading the Lady Eagles 38-25.
Edwards and Johnson combined for Middle Tennessee’s first nine points in the second half, as the lackadaisical play continued for the Blue Raiders.
As a team, Middle Tennessee was fortunate Southern Miss did not play outstanding. The Lady Eagles shot an embarrassing 16.7% from the field in the third quarter, allowing MTSU to take a 16-point lead heading into the final frame.
The Blue Raiders ran away with the game in the fourth quarter, scoring 22 fourth-quarter points on 9-for-16 shooting.
“We made some good passes. If you look at one stat, look at 25 assists, guys. 25 assists on 26 buckets, that’s sharing the basketball,” Insell said.
Edwards should be in line for another Conference USA player of the week award, finishing with a game-high 22 points and fell one rebound shy of recording her second-straight double-double and sixth of the season.
“She’s [Edwards] a horse, she’s a horse. She’s a winner, She’s a winner, I’m telling you. She should be Conference Player of the Week. Two big games like this, she showed up,” Insell said.
Johnson fouled out of the game, but she scored 14 points and grabbed three rebounds in 22 minutes on the court.
“I’m not even sure if I’m supposed to answer that,” Edwards said when asked if Johnson was the C-USA Freshman of the Year. “I mean, yeah. She’s one of the best freshmen. Even without having the title ‘freshman,’ she’s one of the best post players in the conference.”
The Blue Raiders get a bye week to rest up for arguably their most pivotal stretch of games this season. Middle Tennessee travels to take on UAB (13-11, 6-7 C-USA) on February 21, and cross-state rival Western Kentucky (18-4, 9-2 C-USA) on February 25.
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