Story by Trevor Aldridge/ Contributing Writer
The Middle Tennessee State Lady Raiders (1-0) opened up their season with a 68-66 road win over East Carolina (0-1) Wednesday afternoon.
Tennessee transfer Anastasia Hayes shined in her “True Blue” debut, stuffing the stat sheet with 13 points, nine assists and eight rebounds.
The Lady Raiders, who come into the season with the nation’s sixth youngest roster, trailed by eight at the half after being held to just four points in the second quarter.
MTSU found their rhythm offensively in the third quarter, shooting 54% from the floor and outscoring the Lady Pirates 26 to 13 to regain the lead. The outburst included a 10-0 run late in the period.
Freshmen Courtney Whitson and Aislyn Hayes pushed the lead to double digits with back-to-back three-pointers midway through the fourth.
“I was proud of their willingness to step up and not only take, but also make, big time clutch shots in the fourth quarter,” Coach Rick Insell said of his young playmakers.
The Lady Raiders had a decisive advantage from beyond the arc throughout the game. They connected on nine of 26 threes, while ECU made just one for 13.
Free throws also trended heavily in MTSU’s favor, with a plus 12 advantage from the line. The Lady Pirates were just 1-8 for the game.
The Lady Raiders did have to survive a late rally, but got a final stop when ECU’s Lashonda Monk missed a potentially game-winning three in the closing seconds. Monk had a game-high 20 points for the Lady Pirates.
Senior Charity Savage led the way for the Lady Raiders with a 16 point, 13 rebound double-double. Whitson and reigning Conference USA Freshman of the Year Taylor Sutton chipped in 15 points and 12 points respectively.
“I am very proud of our young ladies. They showed a great deal of heart, determination, fight and poise against a good team on the road to get the win.” Insell said.
The Lady Raiders will have an opportunity to pull off an upset on Sunday when they host Women’s Wooden Award watch list member Rhyne Howard and No. 13 ranked Kentucky at the Murphy Center. Tipoff is at 3:00 PM and the game can be seen on ESPN+