Photo by Tyler Lamb / Sports Editor
The Middle Tennessee Lady Raiders (11-7, 6-1) closed out a two-game home-stand on Saturday afternoon when they welcomed the Florida Atlantic Owls (4-14, 0-7) into the Murphy Center. In a game that started out close, MTSU rode a career-high 37-point night by Alex Johnson onto a 87-69 victory.
While they won by 18, the game started out as tight and as physical as head coach Rick Insell expected it to be. The Owls took a 20-17 lead near the end of the first quarter, but the Lady Raiders held their composure and scored six straight to end the first 10 minutes with a 23-20 lead.
Johnson’s big day began from the start as she tallied ten of her team’s 23 points. Senior Guard Ty Petty added 11 first-quarter points and continued to feed Johnson in the second quarter. The sophomore forward finished the first half with 18 points and the Lady Raiders walked into the locker room with a 45-34 lead.
The third quarter proved to be the most fruitful for the Owls as they shot 57.1 percent from the floor, but they couldn’t contain Johnson. The Lady Raiders continued to pound the ball inside the paint and with two made free throws a little over halfway into the quarter, Johnson set her new career-high in points with 31.
Though the game never got too out of hand, Florida Atlantic couldn’t get over the hump and the Lady Raiders walked away with a 87-69 victory. Johnson’s 37-point outing is the most scored by a Lady Raider since Alisha Clark tacked 48 on March 9, 2010 in a Conference USA Tournament game.
Petty added a solid, all-around stat-line with 21 points, six rebounds, six steals and five assists. Junior forwards Gabby Lyon and Rebecca Reuter chipped in 12 and 10 points respectively of their own.
Even though the final score may not have reflected it, Insell believed that the Lady Raiders had to battle to win this game.
“[FAU] shot the ball extremely well. They didn’t look like a winless team in our conference,” Insell said. “That just goes to show you how tough our conference is.”
Though Johnson was the primary source of offense, she knew it would take everyone to knock off a very intense FAU team.
“It was a very physical game but I have to give props to not only my point guard, but my fellow [post player] Gabby. They kept feeding me the ball, knowing I was going to be able to put it against the glass,” Johnson said of her teammates. “It was a team effort.”
At the times when the Owls kept Johnson from getting the ball, Petty’s game on the perimeter helped propel the Lady Raider forward.
“She’s Ty Petty…she’s not a big superman but she’s superman,” Insell said. “A very intelligent, very pretty young lady that plays with a lot of passion. I’m going to miss her.”
The Lady Raiders will hit the practice gym for a couple of days before heading to Hattiesburg, Mississippi to take on the Southern Miss Golden Eagles. Tip-off is set for Thursday at 6 p.m.