By Rickey Fuquay, Jr.//Contributing Writer
MURFREESSBORO – Middle Tennessee (23-9) used a dominating second-half effort to pull away from its old Sun Belt Conference foe Arkansas State, 70-60, Sunday afternoon at the Murphy Center and advance to the third round of the Women’s National Invitation Tournament.
The win marked the first time in program history that the Blue Raiders advanced to the Sweet 16 in postseason play. It is also the first time that they have won multiple games in a national postseason tournament.
The first half was tight from the get-go, as neither team led by more than 10 points at any point during the opening frame. The largest lead was a 12-8 advantage for ASU at the 13:10 mark of the first half. Both teams traded baskets the rest of the half, leading to 25-25 tie at halftime.
The Blue Raiders came out with a purpose in the second half. They went on a 16-4 run to take a double-digit lead, 41-29, with 13:50 remaining.
MTSU continued to extend its lead, building the lead to as many as 19 at the 3:29 mark. ASU closed the game on an 11-2 run, but it was not enough, as MTSU won the game 70-60. The win now advances the Blue Raiders to the WNIT Sweet 16.
The Blue Raiders finished with four players in double figures. Sophomore guard Ty Petty led the way with 22 points, adding five rebounds and four assists to her point total. It was her seventh-straight game scoring in double figures. Junior guard/forward Brea Edwards recorded her second-straight double-double with 18 points 12 rebounds. She shot 7-of-11 shooting from the field, including a perfect 4-of-4 shooting from beyond the arc.
Sophomore guard Olivia Jones also recorded a double-double with 14 points and 12 rebounds. Freshman forward Rebecca Reuter scored in double figures for the first time in her career at MTSU, scoring a career-high 10 points on 5-of-7 shooting from the field. She also tallied six rebounds..
“That’s huge for the school, the town and the university” Reuter said. “I’m happy to be a part of tha,t and I hope we can keep this thing going,”
For the Red Wolves (24-11), Aundrea Gamble led the way with a game-high 24 points and seven rebounds. Jessica Flanery added 12 points on 4-of-8 shooting from the field, as well as 4-of-5 shooting from beyond the arc.
The inside game was huge Sunday for the Blue Raiders. They dominated on the boards, outrebounding the Red Wolves 51-28. MTSU outscored ASU 40-16 on points in the paint.
The starting five nearly scored all of MTSU’s points Sunday, accounting for 69 of the team’s 70 points.
The Blue Raiders will now await their next opponent. They will face either Georgia Tech or Ole Miss. Those two teams play at 6 p.m. CST Sunday. Time, place and date are all yet to be determined.
This story will be updated once a winner is decided in the Georgia Tech-Ole Miss game.
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