Women’s Basketball: Defense, rebounding helps Lady Raiders to win over 49ers

Photo by Joi Williams / MTSU Sidelines

The Middle Tennessee Lady Raiders (13-8, 5-3) returned to Murphy Center on Sunday and earned a win against the Charlotte 49ers (7-13, 3-4) by a score of 64-45. With the victory, MTSU is now 5-0 against Charlotte in the head-to-head series.

It was not a great start for the home team however, as Middle Tennessee missed their first 10 shots from the floor. This helped Charlotte jump out to an 18-10 lead after one quarter of play.

With the way the team has been playing lately, though, there was no reason to worry.

“If you looked at our bench, they didn’t panic,” said head coach Rick Insell. “I knew who was (on the court), and I knew a couple of threes would put us back in the game.”

The Lady Raiders picked up the pace on offense, shooting 43.8 percent (7-16) from the field and 36.4 (4-11) from three-point range. Thanks to the increased production, Middle Tennessee walked into the locker room with a 30-29 lead.

Going into the second half, the Lady Raiders offense ramped up their production even more. Though they made only three long-range shots, they managed to shoot 51.9 percent from the field as a whole. This led to 34 second-half points to put the game away.

Junior forward Alex Johnson had arguably her best game since returning from injury, as she contributed 18 points, seven rebounds and three blocks in the victory.

“Tonight, I felt really comfortable,” Johnson said. “I think that came with our shooters being open. They gave me the confidence (to make those plays).”

Junior guard Jess Louro also had a great night, adding 14 points, nine rebounds and four steals. She made five of her 10 shots from the floor, including two three-point makes.

Freshman guard Anna Jones ended the night with 12 points, four rebounds and two steals in yet another solid all-around game.

Though the offense took some time to get going, the Lady Raider defense held the 49ers to less than 12 points in each of the last three quarters.

The third quarter was the primary evidence of their defensive prowess, as the Lady Raiders only allowed five total points. The 49ers shot a mere 10 percent from the floor in the frame. As a whole, Middle Tennessee forced 14 turnovers and recorded eight steals and three blocks.

In the final three quarters, the 49ers only shot 24.4 percent (10-41) from the field. While Charlotte isn’t one of the top-tier teams in the conference, MTSU needs to continue taking care of business against lesser opponents so they can distance themselves in the Conference USA standings.

Rebounding continues to be strength for the Lady Raiders

Since the Southern Miss game, the Lady Raiders have out-rebounded their opponents by a total of 71-50. That trend continued this game, as MTSU grabbed 41 boards compared to Charlotte’s 27.

The guards had a big hand in this, grabbing 20 rebounds as a unit.

“It’s really important because we know the post players work really hard on boxing out,” Louro said. “When we are on the perimeter, it’s our job to (move into the paint) and try to grab as many boards as we can.”

Rebounds lead to second-chance opportunities, as the Lady Raiders scored 16 such points on 16 offensive rebounds.

What’s next?

The Lady Raiders will get ready for their next home game against the Louisiana Tech Lady Techsters on Thursday at 6:30 p.m.

To contact Sports Editor Rusty Ellis (@RustyEllis13), email sports@mtsusidelines.com.

For more sports stories, follow us on Facebook at MTSU Sidelines and on Twitter and Periscope at @Sidelines_Sport.

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