Second half surge pushes Lady Raiders past Owls

Photo by David Chamberlain / MTSU Sidelines

The Lady Raiders had a first round bye on Wednesday and they would need all the rest they could get for the physical game against Rice on Thursday. The Lady Raiders squeezed out a 61-59 victory, giving them a spot in the semifinals against the winner of the Southern Miss and Old Dominion game.

Ty Petty led the way with 26 points and 4 assists. Alex Johnson and Gabby Lyon were the only other Lady Raiders in double figures. Johnson finished with 11 points, while Lyon chipped in 10.

The game we all expected

Defense kept the Lady Raiders alive in the second half and allowed MT to complete the comeback and keep their season alive. (MTSU Sidelines/David Chamberlain)

The Lady Raiders started out slow, settling for outside shots and getting away from their inside game.

“When we go away from our system, that’s what messes us up,” Ty Petty said. “We depended on the three [point shot] a lot. We had to get the post more touches and knock down shots when it was time.”

MTSU only had 11 points in the first quarter. Coach Rick Insell knew they were going to have to fight in order to come out on top.

“We watched them play last night. They were very desperate in the fact that are not going to play again this year,” Coach Insell said. “They played a tough [UTSA] team that’s as good as anyone in this tournament. They had them down 17 points.”

The usual stars struggle

Alex Johnson thrives in the paint and rises above the contested defense to bring the Lady Raiders back. (MTSU Sidelines/David Chamberlain)

While Ty Petty led all scorers with 26 points, she shot only 8-of-25 from the field. Her three-point shot wasn’t falling either. She would finish 4-of-13 from behind the arc. Petty also had a team-high five turnovers.

“I was just rushing my shots and coach pulled me to the side and told me to attack more,” Ty Petty said. “When I did attack I got my other shooter open.”

She didn’t let the poor shooting break her confidence as she provided the three-pointer to put the Lady Raiders up seven in the fourth quarter. She also knocked down two free throws to put the game away in the final seconds.

Alex Johnson had a good game from the field, going 4-of-6 and scoring 11 points. Nine of her 11 points came in the first half.

She just couldn’t keep herself out of foul trouble early on. As great players do, she found a way to clean up her play in the second half. She didn’t pick up another foul in the second half and played terrific defense inside the paint.

Halftime spark

Abbey Sissom knocks down her second 3 pointer of the game with time winding down to give the Lady Raiders the lead. (MTSU Sidelines/David Chamberlain)

Middle Tennessee was getting “killed” on the boards in the first half according to Coach Insell.

“At halftime we were down 23-11 in rebounds. That’s not us,” Insell said. “We were playing soft and we have to do a better job.”

They would tie Rice with 15 second half rebounds, including an 11-5 advantage on the boards in the fourth quarter.

The Lady Raiders played poor defense as a team in the first half which got them in a whole. They gave up backdoor cut after backdoor cut.

This allowed Rice to go into the half with a lead. The defense came out with a different aggression the second half, led by All-Conference Defensive player Abbey Sissom. She was challenged by Insell after she was gave up 11 points in the first half.

Her response?

Sissom shut down her matchup, Rice’s leading scorer, Nicole Iademarco, in the second half. She completely shut her down, holding her to only three points. Those three points, however, were meaningless as they came at the buzzer when Rice was down five points.

Box Score

What’s Next?

The Lady Raiders will take on the winner of the Southern Miss and Old Dominion game. The game is scheduled for tomorrow at 7 pm at the Legacy Arena.

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