Photo Courtesy Helen Comer /DNJ
The Lady Raiders knocked off Central Michigan 79-69 Wednesday night in matchup where sophomore forward Alex Johnson scored a career-high 30 points. After getting beat 59-81 in last year’s contest against the Chippewas, MTSU made sure it wasn’t going to happen this time.
But early on in this one, it was all Ty Petty. The senior point-guard sparked her team on both ends as she lead the team with seven points in the first quarter.
On the other end, sophomore forward Reyna Frost was a force in the first quarter. Frost had eight of the team’s first 13 points. Frost and Central Michigan controlled the first 10 minutes, leading 18-15.
The Lady Raiders stayed levelheaded, realizing they still have three quarters yet to be played.
“In previous games, we tend to let people get us out of our system. But I think tonight was a big night to where we stuck to our system,” Petty said. “We stuck to our system tonight and it helped get shooters open. And then once the shooters started knocking down, it opened up for [Johnson].
In the ensuing 10 minutes, MTSU held Frost to zero points. Even though the Lady Raiders didn’t score a field goal in the final 3:25, they went to halftime with a 31-27 lead.
MTSU seemed like a team on a mission coming out of the break.
Getting her first start since Dec. 9 at Kentucky, Jess Louro knocked down back-to-back threes to lift the Raiders to as much as a 12-point lead early in the third quarter.
The Chippewas were able to gain a little ground, but that’s when forward Alex Johnson came to life. The Murfreesboro native showed dominance all throughout the third quarter as she tallied tallied 12 points in 10 minutes.
“It was just taking my time,”Johnson said. “Thats what coach [Insell] keeps harping on, ‘take your time, take you time’. When I tend to rush my shots, that’s when they are not falling. I knew when I started off 0-of-5, I had to change something, and that’s the biggest thing I had to change.”
MTSU took a 10-point lead with 7 minutes left on a second chance three-point opportunity from Sissom. CMU wouldn’t go away, however, they would slowly chip away.
CMU’s Jewel Cotton hit a layup with with 1:33 left to make it 71-69, but MTSU wouldn’t get rattled. The Lady Raiders were put on the line four times in the remaining minute and a half where the team converted on every attempt.
Overall, MTSU went 21-of-23 from the charity stripe, a stat that Insell praised his team for after the game.
“I think the key to the whole game was the free-throw shooting,” Insell said. “Down the stretch, we hit 21-of-23, and you win games doing that.”
On the night, Johnson also set a career-high for made field goals, going 12-of-20 (60%). She also grabbed seven rebounds.
Petty ended her night with with 24 points, while Jess Louro, Rebecca Reuter, and Gabby Lyon each added six.
Junior guard Abbey Sissom scored 10 points, tallied eight assists, and grabbed four boards.
“When [Sissom] doesn’t come to play, we struggle,” Insell said. “But when she comes to play, she was looking for shots tonight. She was 2-for-2 from the line, had eight assists. That’s what we need out of her, we don’t need her to hit every shot. But by her taking shots, it gives our posts a chance to go rebound and get some easy putbacks.”
Central Michigan was lead by 6-foot-3 junior Tinara Moore who finished the night with 16 points and six rebounds.
The Lady Raiders now turn to conference play as they travel to Birmingham to play the UAB Blazers this Sunday at 2 p.m.
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