Women’s basketball: Johnson to take the reigns in 2017-18

Johnson scored 37 points against FAU on Jan. 21, 2017

Photo by Tyler Lamb / Sidelines Archives

The Middle Tennessee Lady Raider basketball team is transitioning into a new era. After four years of Ty Petty being the leader of the team, Murfreesboro native Alex Johnson will take the reigns as leader and continue the momentum of last season’s postseason run.

The Lady Raiders had a very solid 2016-17 campaign that saw them make it to the third round of the Women’s National Invitational Tournament, where they fell to Georgia Tech by a final score of 70-57.

With a solid mix of returning talent and fresh faces, the Lady Raiders could be primed to make a run at the Conference USA championship in 2017-18.

Johnson takes the reigns of the team

No matter what happens this year, it’s pretty safe to say that Alex Johnson will be major component of any success. As a sophomore, the Blackman High School product averaged 20.2 points per game and made the All-C-USA First-Team. She also become just the third sophomore in school history to reach the 1,000 point mark in just two seasons.

Johnson showed flashes at many points last year that she was capable of even more than what the numbers suggested. In a late season match-up against the Florida International Panthers, Johnson took the game over when it mattered most and scored a game-high 32 points on 14-19 shooting from the floor to lead the Lady Raiders to an 88-53 victory.

She played a pivotal role in the Raiders’ postseason play as well, posting a 26-point, 12-rebound double-double against Morehead State in the first round of the WNIT. The momentum continued into their second round game against Wake Forest, where Johnson scored 28 points to push the Lady Raiders into the third round of the WNIT with a 73-66 win over the Demon Deacons.

For the Lady Raiders to be successful in 2017-18, Johnson will have to take her game to bigger heights than ever before.

Who are the breakout candidates?

While Johnson plays the biggest role, the supporting cast will need to step up for the team as well. One such breakout candidate could be senior guard Abbey Sissom.

Sissom has been one of head coach Rick Insell’s most trusted defenders, but she’s also proven to be able to take over a game when the team needs her. In a late season game against the University of  Alabama-Birmingham Lady Blazers, Sissom stole the show with 25 points on 8-9 shooting from three.

If she can be a consistent threat from deep, the Lady Raiders could form a dangerous offensive tandem of her on the perimeter and Johnson in the paint.

Another candidate could be senior forward Rebecca Reuter. Last season, Reuter showcased her ability to stretch the floor as a post player. While Johnson, Gabby Lyon and Jordan Majors are excellent in the paint, Reuter has the ability to step out and knock down three-point shots with consistent accuracy.

She showed how effective she could be last season with a career-high 23 points at Charlotte. Whether she’s coming off the bench or starting, she will be one of the keys to Middle Tennessee’s success this season.

Returnees and Newcomers alike will be key to success in 2017

Whether it’s incumbents like Johnson, Sissom and Rueter or newcomers like Jadona Davis, Kara Meadows and Zeynep Canbaz, this team will rely on everyone to contribute to beat teams like Western Kentucky and Southern Mississippi.

Conference USA is as competitive as ever and the team won’t succeed with only one player shouldering the entire load. With a great mix of smart veterans combined with some energetic newcomers, this team is one that every C-USA contender should look out for in the coming season.

To contact Sports Editor Rusty Ellis, email sports@mtsusidelines.com.

For more sports stories, follow us on Facebook at MTSU Sidelines and on Twitter and Periscope at @Sidelines_Sport.

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