Photo by Tyler Lamb / MTSU Sidelines
The Middle Tennessee State Lady Raiders defeated the Western Kentucky Lady Hilltoppers, 81-69, on Thursday night at Murphy Center. Anna Jones led MT to victory with 26 points, but A’Queen Hayes, Alex Johnson and Jordan Majors also finished with double digits offensively.
“Anna Jones was a horse all night,” said head coach Rick Insell. “I’ve been on her pretty hard the last three practices about stepping her game up. We’re not going to be a good basketball team unless she steps her game up.”
It was a defensive showcase to begin the game with neither team able to get any shots up. The Lady Raiders fought hard to disrupt passes, force steals and record a couple of blocks. Through the first six minutes of play, there was only six shots taken.
Jones finally kick-started the MT offense with a big three-point shot. She was the catalyst from that point on and led the team in scoring for the first half. Jones hit another three to put the Lady Raiders up in the second quarter, and it propelled them to a 1-point lead at half time.
Hayes and Jones were the main source of offense, as they combined for 18 of MT’s 26 first half points.
Despite a slow start for both teams, they traded shots back and forth as the game progressed. The Lady Raiders couldn’t create any separation from the Lady Hilltoppers as their largest lead was five going into the final quarter of play. Likewise for the Lady Hilltoppers, their largest lead was three.
Any time the Lady Raiders found themselves in a slump, Majors seemed to ignite the offense. She provided valuable minutes off the bench with clutch shots to maintain the lead and offensive rebounds to keep possessions alive.
Jones came up big again to begin the final period of play with her second three-pointer of the game. On the following possession, she was fouled and sent to the free throw line, where she extended the Blue Raider lead to nine and the largest of the night.
“You just have to know when he’s hard on you that’s because he sees something in you and expects a lot,” Jones said. “I knew I had to pick up my game to help our team win.”
However, WKU did not go down without a fight. They connected on their following two possessions via three-pointer and one foul play to cut the MT lead back down to three.
Like clockwork, Jones’ monstrous night continued, along with another clutch bucket from Majors down the stretch. The dagger came from Johnson when she connected on her second three-pointer of the game with just over two minutes left. That play extended the MT’s lead to double digits.
The Lady Raiders cruised to a victory in the waning moments. After a slow start offensively, MT ended up scoring 81 points for the game. Jones set her season high and Majors set her career high in points against the Hilltoppers. Overall, it was the best shooting percentage in school history with 66.7 percent from the floor. Despite all of that, Insell was still not satisfied.
“I don’t think either ball team played up to their potential,” Insell said.
We’ll see if the Lady Raiders can match Insell’s expectations against Marshall on Saturday. MTSU will welcome the Thundering Herd to Murphy Center on Saturday where tip-off is set for 5 p.m.
To contact Sports Editor David Chamberlain, email firstname.lastname@example.org.