Photo by Devin P. Grimes / MTSU Sidelines
Story by Darius Horton / Sports Reporter
The Middle Tennessee Lady Raiders (18-13) played hard on the road against the Ball State Lady Cardinals (25-6) on Thursday night, but ended up losing the game 69-60 in the first round of the Women’s NIT.
The Lady Raiders were coming off a first-round exit to the Rice Owls in the Conference USA Tournament on Mar. 8 in Frisco, Texas. After failing to earn an at-large bid into the NCAAW Tournament, they were awarded a three-seed in the WNIT. Due to the Tennessee State Championship games however, they were forced to play on the road in Muncie, Indiana.
The game was low-scoring early, as both teams struggled to find rhythm on the offensive end. Middle Tennessee didn’t help their case in the second quarter, when they only scored nine points. That’s a number that has become too familiar with them, as they’ve had several quarters this season where they failed to crack double-digits in points.
Even with that, the Lady Raiders only trailed by six at halftime when Frannie Fraizer made a layup with 47 seconds left in the opening act. In the third quarter, Middle managed to cut the deficit to 47-45 after a pair of Abbey Sissom free throws with 1:41 left in the quarter.
The Lady Raiders played hard in the final frame, but couldn’t get consistent stops on defense in the losing effort. Ball State put together a balanced scoring effort, as they had five players in double figures. Carmen Grande led the way for the home team, as she scored 16 points in the victory.
Junior Jess Louro led the Lady Raiders in scoring by tallying 12 points and nine rebounds, while junior Alex Johnson was not far behind her with 11 points of her own. Sissom also added 11 points and recorded seven assists in her final game as a Lady Raider.
Foul trouble plague Lady Raiders in loss
The Lady Raiders could not get anything going because they were in foul trouble for most of the game.
Johnson, freshman Anna Jones and senior Gabby Lyon each fouled out, forcing Head Coach Rick Insell to dig a little deeper into his bench. Louro finished with four fouls as well, halting her from being physical on the defensive end.
Foul trouble hurt MTSU, as this led to 37 free throw attempts throughout the game for the Cardinals. A lot of the fouls were near the end of the game, but losing a player like Johnson late is a big blow to the team.
The Lady Raiders struggled to keep Ball State away from the charity and in the end, it was simply too much for them to handle.
Turnovers haunt Middle Tennessee for one final time
The Lady Raiders committed 18 turnovers on Thursday night, a number that has simply become too common for the squad.
The final three quarters were particularly brutal, as they committed five miscues in each quarter. In the third, the Lady Raiders had a 3:05 span where they committed four turnovers alone.
The Cardinals managed to score 26 points off of Middle Tennessee’s turnovers, and Grande and Destiny Washington each recorded three steals for Ball State.
It’s been a season-long issue for the Lady Raiders, and it came to roost one final time in their last game of the season.
The Lady Raiders season is now officially over, and the coaching staff will likely take some time off before beginning preparations for next season.
To contact Sports Editor Rusty Ellis, email email@example.com.