Photo by Tyler Lamb / Sports Editor
The Middle Tennessee Lady Raiders played host to the University of Texas-El Paso Miners in a Conference USA matchup tonight. After a slow start offensively, the Lady Raider defense took over early and carried Middle to a 76-53 victory.
Middle Tennessee’s defense was stiff as they forced 12 first-half turnovers, turning that into 16 points of their own. The Blue Raiders’ pressure on the perimeter suffocated the Miners into shooting 25 percent from the field on the opening stanza.
Though they started slow on offense, MTSU took care of the ball when they had it, only committing six turnovers of their own. Their attack was led by Ty Petty with 14 first-half points. Her strong half led the Blue Raiders into the break with a 34-22 lead.
Despite struggling early on, UTEP turned things around to start the third quarter. They dominated the first six minutes, going on an 11-4 scoring run to cut the MTSU lead to 38-33. They made five of their nine shots from the floor in the run and held the Lady Raiders scoreless for almost four minutes.
The MT defense stepped up its pressure in a big way, holding UTEP scoreless for the final 4:37 to go into the fourth quarter with a 48-33 lead.
Coming into the fourth quarter with just eight points, Alex Johnson dominated the final frame by scoring 17 points to lead the team to a 76-53 victory.
Ty Petty finished with 27 points to lead all scorers, while Johnson poured in 25 points to go along with seven rebounds. Gabby Lyon had an all-around game as she finished with 8 points, 6 rebounds and 5 steals.
Although Johnson couldn’t find her rhythm for much of the night, she was able to stay focused and dominate the fourth, refusing to let anything stop her, on the court or off.
“Alex has had a lot on her mind the last ten days, “ coach Rick Insell said after the game. “Her great-grandmother passed away…she’s had a lot on her mind.”
Despite the slow start, her teammates never lost faith in her or her fellow post players.
“We have great posts, I think we have the best posts in the conference,” Petty said. “And they’re veterans, so I knew they were going to step up.”
The Blue Raiders (14-8, 9-2) will rest up and travel to Pennsylvania on Thursday to take on the Old Dominion Monarchs with tip-off set for 6 p.m.