Junior Olivia Jones played like the Preseason Player of the Year against UAB on Sunday afternoon, dropping 17 points, dishing out five assists, and corralling six boards.
Middle Tennessee (7-5, 1-0) opened conference play at the Murphy Center against UAB (7-5, 0-1). Jones would lead all scorers, while Ty Petty and Brea Edwards would finish just behind Jones with 15 points.
The Blue Raiders came out playing outstanding, championship defense, holding UAB to only four points on four shots in the first four minutes of action. The Blue Raiders jumped out to an early 11-4 lead, not allowing the Blazers to hold a lead at any point.
“I was real pleased with our team from a defensive standpoint,” head coach Rick Insell said. “That was a very good UAB team that we beat. We have been tinkering with our press. We didn’t talk to the (players) about pressing as much today, but when we called it and jumped into it, we got results. Maybe we should press more.”
The Blue Raiders were able to maintain their level of defense throughout the game, forcing 25 turnovers from the Blazers and nine steals.
MT got fantastic ball movement offensively, leading to 14 team assists. Of those 14, Jones had five and Petty had four. Jones was more active in the team’s offense on Sunday, which is something Insell previously said would happen as the season progressed.
Jones looks to be coming into her own this season, after dropping some weight in the offseason. She struggled finding her offensive rhythm earlier in the season, but Insell is pleased with her progression and performance thus far in the season. She will need to continue her success if the team hopes to claim the Conference USA title.
The Blue Raiders were able to out-rebound the Blazers 36-27, while out-shooting them 42% to 31%.
Middle Tennessee continues their tough conference schedule on the road, as they take on UTEP (10-1,1-0) on January 7 at 8:05.
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