By Rickey Fuquay, Jr.//Contributing Wrtier
MURFREESBORO – Middle Tennessee (22-9) used an early run in the second half to breeze past Ball State, 69-58, Thursday night Murphy Center, advancing to the second round of the Women’s National Invitation Tournament.
The win marked MTSU Head Coach Rick Insell’s 250th with the program.
The game was tied at 10 apiece with 11:22 left in the opening frame. However, the Blue Raiders powered their way to the lead with a 17-6 run to take a 27-16 lead with 7:42 left in the first half. The two teams largely traded baskets the rest of the half, resulting in a 38-25 MTSU lead at the half.
The Blue Raiders extended their lead out of the locker room, building up the lead to as much as 21, 54-33, with 13:16 remaining. However, the Cardinals refused to go away, as they utilized an 11-0 run, capped off by a Jill Morrison 3-pointer, to cut the MTSU lead to 10 at 56-46 with 8:50 left in regulation.
Ball State (17-14) trimmed the lead to as little as seven, but the Blue Raiders outscored the Cardinals 7-3 over the final couple of minutes en route to a 69-58 victory. The win advances MTSU to the second round of the WNIT where it will host former Sun Belt Conference foe Arkansas State on Sunday at 2 p.m. CST in Murphy Center.
Sophomore Olivia Jones led the way on offense with 19 points. She also recorded five rebounds, three assists and eight steals.
“We just got to keep playing game-by-game,” Jones said. “Nobody really wants to go home.”
Junior Brea Edwards recorded her second double-double in the last four games, tallying 17 points and a game-high 12 rebounds. Sophomore Ty Petty stuffed the stats sheet as she racked up 13 points, three assists, three steals and two rebounds. It was Petty’s fifth-straight game scoring in double figures.
For the Cardinals, Nathalie Fontaine led the team with a double-double, scoring 15 points and grabbing 10 rebounds. Renee Bennett also reached double digits, who recorded 12 points to go along with four rebounds and four blocks. Morrison tallied 11 points, five rebounds and two assists.
The defensive pressure proved to be too much for the Cardinals, as the Blue Raiders recorded 18 points off 20 turnovers. Ball State outrebounded MTSU 46-32, but the Cardinals failed to turn these extra chances into points. MTSU outscored Ball State in the paint, 36-24.
The Blue Raiders will look to keep their season going when they host Arkansas State on Sunday in Murphy Center. Tip-off is scheduled for 2 p.m. CST.
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