Blue Raider Women’s Basketball Sluggish Early in Final Tune-Up

Martin Methodist's Nina Mills (20) and MTSU's Caroline Warden (32) both scramble for a ball that MTSU's Olivia Jones (34) looses control of as Martin Methodist's Tori Stephenson (4) comes up from behind during the exhibition game at MTSU on Monday Nov. 9, 2015.

Photo by: Daily News Journal/Helen Comer

Middle Tennessee started slow in Monday’s final exhibition against Martin Methodist, but they found their groove late in the first half and didn’t let up, cruising to a 85-53 victory.

After a dominating performance last Wednesday, the ceiling for Blue Raider women’s basketball was higher than ever. Wednesday’s total team effort against Coastal Carolina gave a true glimpse of what this team can really do.

Monday’s game was different for the Blue Raiders, battling back and forth with the Red Hawks in the first quarter. Junior guard Ty Petty secured the lead with a layup as the buzzer sounded at the end of the first quarter.

The first half was sloppy for the most part, with turnovers at both ends, and plenty missed opportunities. Middle Tennessee finally seemed to find their groove late in the second quarter, with junior Olivia Jones heating up. The Blue Raiders held 40-29 lead at the break.

“She’s handling the ball better this year,” Head Coach Rick Insell said about Jones so far this year. “I can see her taking her game to another level, much higher than it is right now.”

Jones finished with 21 points on 8-18 shooting, but went 4-8 from behind the arc. The junior was pivotal as the second half got underway, scoring points in bunches and sparking the Blue Raider offense.

“We needed to pick it up a little bit,” Jones said about the team coming out of the break. “We were basically playing against ourselves (in the first half).”

Freshman forward Alex Johnson shined in just her second collegiate game, earning her first career double-double. The former Blackman standout finished with 16 points, and grabbed a game-high 10 boards.

“I was more focused this game, not as nervous,” Johnson said. “Personally I have to work on my defense every day because that’s one of my struggles.”

Five Blue Raiders scored in double figures in the win. Apart from  Johnson and Jones, senior Brea Edwards contributed 13 points, with Petty finishing with 10 points and eight assists. Sophomore Abbey Sissom, a highly talented guard from Cannon County, had one of her better nights as a Blue Raider, finishing with 10 points and five rebounds.

“She just needs to play, she just needs to go out there and break loose,” Insell said. “Abbey Sissom’s a player. Kid was Ms. Basketball 2A in the state of Tennessee, that’s probably as good of basketball as you’ll get anywhere in the country.”

Middle Tennessee will use the rest of the mid-week to prepare, as they host Virginia in their home opener on Friday night. Tipoff is scheduled for 6:30 p.m.

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