Two years ago at the 2019 Conference USA Tourney, MTSU’s dreams at an NCAA Tournament berth were one game away from becoming reality until the Rice Owls smashed them in a 69-54 loss for the Lady Raiders. Saturday night on that same court in Frisco, Texas, MTSU would not be denied a second time.
The Lady Raiders (17-7, 12-4) held off a late rally by Rice (18-4, 12-2) to win the Conference USA tournament for the third time and book MTSU’s 19th NCAA Tournament appearance, its first since the 2015-16 season.
The Lady Raiders led for most of the contest with leading scorer Courtney Whitson drilling six three-point baskets en route to a 22 point performance over the Owls before fouling out late in the contest.
Rice would cut a late MTSU 4th quarter lead from ten to one with ten seconds remaining with the lone senior on the roster Rellah Boothe at the free throw line. Boothe would miss one of the two free throws keeping the Owls in the contest, but after coming out of the timeout Boothe would force a turnover to seal the win for the Lady Raiders.
Rice’s 2019 C-USA Tourney MVP for Nancy Mulkey, who terrorized the Lady Raiders two years ago, finished likely her final conference game with 21 points, ten rebounds, and five blocks.
Both C-USA Player of the Year Anastasia Hayes and C-USA All-Second Team Aisylnn Hayes played all forty minutes of the contest and finished with a combined 32 points.
The Lady Raiders will await its fate and future opponent to be announced on Selection Monday on March 15th for the NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament. The broadcast time is set for 7 p.m. ET on ESPN.
The Blue Raiders are no strangers to success in the NCAA Tournament having won five games in 18 appearances since 1983. MTSU’s last win came in 2007 when the Lady Raiders routed Gonzaga 85-46.