Photo by Tyler Lamb / Sports Editor
The Lady Raiders Basketball team welcomed the Western Kentucky Lady Hilltoppers to Murphy Center Thursday night. The Lady Hilltoppers came away with their second victory over the Lady Raiders for the season. WKU’s 10 three-pointers lifted them past MT, 82-75.
The Lady Raiders physically dominated the game on offense. They recorded 44 points in the paint and grabbed 34 rebounds collectively. Turnovers ultimately killed any hopes of victory for MT. They gave up the ball 16 times while WKU only gave up six. The Lady Raiders also struggled to guard the perimeter and allowed the Hilltoppers to hit 10 three-pointers in the game.
“That’s the difference in the ball game right there. They took care of the basketball, we didn’t take care of the ball. They made some shots when they needed to, and we didn’t make some shots,” Coach Rick Insell said.
Ty Petty moved into second all time with assists for a Lady Raider. She, Alex Johnson, and Abbey Sissom all had very productive nights. They all crossed into double-digits in points and hit big shots to try and mount a comeback against the Hilltoppers, but ultimately fell short in the end.
Lady Raiders Neutralize WKU’s Three-Pointers Early
The Lady Raiders were sluggish to begin the game. The Hilltoppers outside scoring posed serious problems to start the game. WKU hit two early three’s and moved the ball well. They also pressed the Lady Raiders and suffocated their passing. MT tightened up their defense and attacked inside on offense. Sissom and Petty drove the lane effectively. They also fed Johnson in the post who played very physical and efficient.
The Lady Raiders shot 10-of-14 from the field to end the first quarter to neutralize the Hilltopper’s four three-pointers in the first quarter alone.
Defense, Turnovers Costly for Lady Raiders
The Lady Raiders were able to contain the Hilltoppers shooting in the first quarter and it proved to be an achilles heel. The Hilltoppers tacked on another four three-pointers in the second quarter. WKU recorded 45 points in the first half and only six came from within the paint.
The Blue Raiders committed too many mistakes on offense and coughed the ball up 10 times alone in the half. The Hilltoppers capitalized and scored 13 points off of those turnovers.
“We were our worst enemy. I had six turnovers which can’t happen in a big game like this. We beat ourselves,” Petty said.
Alex Johnson carried the load for MT to try to keep within reach of WKU. She tallied 18 points in the first half while the Lady Raiders only connected on one shot from behind the arc, coming from Abbey Sissom.
Comeback Falls Short in the 4th
Johnson and Petty were dominant in the final half of play. Sissom also provided crucial three-pointers to keep the Lady Raiders alive.
Johnson exploded with 15 points in the second half. Petty also stepped up in a big way with her shooting to rally the Lady Raiders.
Johnson scored at will in the paint, while converting on a multitude of foul plays as well.
After trailing by double digits, the Lady Raiders cut into the Hilltoppers lead. However, every time the MT would catch up, the Hilltoppers would pull away. The Lady Raiders were breathing down the Hilltoppers necks.
With just 4:20 remaining, MT only trailed by one. The Lady Raiders became frantic and felt the pressure and settled for contested shots.
“It came right down to the fact that we had three people score and they had five. It’s very simple. We had three that went out and got their average or better and we didn’t get anything out of our other two people,” Insell said.
Johnson’s dominant performance with 33 points was overshadowed by three critical turnovers that allowed a final push for the Hilltoppers to lock up the victory.
MT was forced to foul in the final minute and the Hilltoppers converted at the line to leave Murphy Center victorious for the first time since 2004.
“There was no trophies won tonight,” said Petty. “We’ll definitely have to see them again, but we can’t keep our heads down. We just have to come back in tomorrow and fix our mistakes. We have four games left. We still control our destiny.”
Lady Raiders Final Stats against WKU pic.twitter.com/EMOyySwfwm
— David (@D_Chamberlain_) February 17, 2017
The Lady Raiders will be at the Murphy Center again on Saturday to face the Marshall Thundering Herd. Tip-off is set for 2 p.m. and can be viewed via ESPN3.
Follow MTSU Lady Raider beat writers David Chamberlain (@D_Chamberlain_) and Keenan Taylor (@keenantaylor_) on Twitter for more coverage.
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To contact Sports Editor Tyler Lamb (@Tlamb35), email firstname.lastname@example.org.