Photo by Devin P. Grimes / MTSU Sidelines
The Middle Tennessee Lady Raiders (8-6, 0-1) traveled to Bowling Green, Kentucky, to take on the Western Kentucky Lady Hilltoppers (10-4,1-0) on Thursday. A lackluster offensive performance by the Lady Raiders and a late run by WKU ultimately led to a 57-43 loss.
The game was never pretty offensively for the Lady Raiders. The only player to reach double digits in scoring was senior Abbey Sissom, as she finished with 11 points on an abysmal 3-14 shooting.
The only other bright spot for Middle Tennessee was junior LaSonja Edwards. Edwards added seven points on 3-4 shooting after just playing 11 minutes.
By the end of the second quarter, the Lady Raiders had gone eight minutes without making a field goal. During that stretch, WKU went 5-5 from the field and took a 25-14 lead into the locker room break.
Throughout the second half, it was more of the same for MT. They followed up a poor shooting performance (15 percent from the floor) in the first half by shooting 41 percent in the second. Overall, they finished the game by shooting 32 percent.
At the beginning of the fourth quarter, Sissom knocked down her lown three on the night to cut the lead to eight and give the team life. Just as the Lady Raiders showed a slight pulse on offense however, WKU put the game on ice with a 16-6 run over the next seven minutes.
With seniors Rebecca Rueter and Gabby Lyon on the bench most of the game in foul trouble, MTSU was never able to get going offensively, and they dropped their opening Conference USA game by a score of 57-43.
Defense keeps MTSU in the game
WKU has been the best scoring team in the conference, averaging 78 points per game. Middle Tennessee played great defense and surrendered just 57 points to the Lady Hilltoppers, well under their average throughout the season.
The Lady Raiders also faced a tough challenge in defending WKU guard Tashia Brown. Brown came into the game ranked fourth in the country in scoring, averaging 23.6 points per game. Sissom was tasked with guarding Brown and performed well. When all was said and done, the Woodbury, Tenn. native held Brown to just 17 points and stopped her nine-game streak of scoring above 20 points.
As a team, WKU shot just 34 percent on the night.
Offense disappears once again for Lady Raiders
While the defense kept them in the game, the Middle Tennessee offense just couldn’t make shots when they needed it. Overall, the Lady Raiders shot just 32 percent from the floor.
One key element of the struggle was the lack of three-point makes. MTSU shot a mere 20 percent from behind the arc, good for only two makes on the night.
Sissom and Jess Louro are usually the top three-point shooters on the Lady Raider squad, but they shot a combined 1-7 from deep. They will obviously need to have better nights if this team wants to win the conference and end up making the NCAA Tournament.
The Lady Raiders return home to the Murphy Center Saturday at 6 p.m. to play against the University of Alabama-Birmingham Blazers.
Follow MTSU Sports Reporter Logan Ward on Twitter at @lward98_ward.
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