Photo by Tyler Lamb / Sports Editor
Abbey Sissom was benched for the first time this season on Wednesday. After missing just one start in the last 30 games dating back to Jan. 9, 2016, the junior guard didn’t sulk, quit or lay down. Instead, the Cannon County native scored 10 points, tallied eight assists, and hauled in 4 rebounds in her team’s 79-69 victory over Central Michigan.
“I’ve said it over and over and over, when Sissom comes to play, we’re just as good as anybody out there and I mean that,” said head coach Rick Insell. “When she doesn’t come to play, we struggle.”
Sissom has been a key component to Lady Raiders (5-6) since her freshman year, but it wasn’t until the departure of Olivia Jones that she was given the opportunity in the spotlight. After starting just four career games, Sissom was inserted into the lineup on Jan. 9, where she would stay for the next 354 days, missing just one start in a game where she would still score 10 points.
Through the first 10 games this season and prior to Wednesday night’s game, Sissom was averaging nine points per game, 1.7 three-pointers per game en route to a career-best 44 percent from beyond the arc. Digging deeper, however, statistics show that Sissom’s best performances have come when the team wins, and it’s not even close.
During the team’s six losses, Sissom has scored just 4.5 ppg, shooting 9-of-44 (20%) from the field and just 4-of-16 (25%) from deep.
But in MTSU’s five victories this season, the three-point specialist has averaged 14.6 ppg, shooting a total of 24-of-48 (50%) and 15-of-27 (55%) from three-point land.
On Wednesday, Sissom not only performed well with her shot, but also in other facets including including assists and rebounds. Her strong, all-around game opened up scoring for players like Alex Johnson who scored a career-high 30 points against CMU.
“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.”
“She ended up with four rebounds, I can live that with. I don’t want her to get seven or eight rebounds. If i can get three or four rebounds out of that two and three position. Jess Louro got seven rebounds. So out of our two and three position tonight, we got 11 rebounds. We can live with that.”
Ty Petty, the lone senior on this year’s squad, also realizes just how important her counterpart is to MTSU.
“Abbey is a big part of this program,” said senior guard Ty Petty. “Coach is kind of hard on her after our last game. To me, she did exactly what any upperclassman should do and just take his coaching and when you get the opportunity, to just show him why you should be on the floor. I think tonight she showed that.”
Sissom has had big scoring, rebounding and assist nights in her three years in blue. However, she has never done so in the same night, especially coming off of the bench.
“I’m an old school coach,” said Insell. “Bobby Knight says the wood will motivate you more than anything in the world. You may not be a Bobby Knight guy, but I kind of believe that too. When you’ve been a starter now for a couple of years and you have to go to the wood, if you’re a competitor, you don’t like that.”
So, maybe we need to put her on the wood more often,” Insell said laughing.
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