Story by Calvin White / Contributing Writer
Two dominant freshman performances powered the Lady Raiders past FIU on Thursday night, defeating the Panthers 63-49 to stay undefeated inside Murphy Center.
Freshman Jalynn Gregory and Anastasiia Boldyreva combined for 44 of Middle Tennessee’s 63 points. Gregory scored 23 points behind a 7-13 shooting performance while also shooting 5-12 from long distance to go along with six rebounds. Boldyreva was a dominant force in the paint, scoring 21 points on 10-13 shooting to go along with seven boards.
“It was a game that we needed to have, and now you can see why we got beat down there. They’re a tough, very aggressive team,” head coach Rick Insell said. “I don’t think anybody played a real good game to be honest with you. Except the two freshmen. Jalynn Gregory carried us early and Anastasiia carried us late.”
Gregory had a hot shooting stroke right out of the gate, scoring 21 of MTSU’s 36 points in the first half. This was the first game since MT’s win over Rice on Jan. 7 that Gregory scored in double figures, and the first time in four games that she knocked down a 3-pointer.
“That’s what coach Matt (Insell) kept telling me in practice,” Gregory said. “I’d still been struggling to knock down shots. And he’s like ‘once you see one go in, you’re going to see the rest of them go in.’ Knocking down those shots just really helped in saying that I’m out of that slump.”
Thursday was the fifth time in seven games that Boldyreva scored at least 14 points. Her five blocks set a new career high and moved her to seventh in Middle Tennessee history in single season blocks with 38.
“I was a little surprised to score so much,” Boldyreva said. “At the same time, I knew that I had to score because in some positions, they played loose and I knew I needed to score there.”
This was the eighth time this season that the Lady Raiders held their opponent under 50 points. The single season record in that category is 11 times in one season.
Middle Tennessee held FIU to just six points in the second quarter and outrebounded the Panthers 23-7 to take a 36-22 lead into the halftime break. Gregory’s 21 points in the first half would leave her just six points away from her single game career high.
Boldyreva scored 11 of the Lady Raider’s 15 fourth quarter points to put the game away. MTSU has now won at least 10 conference games for the 19th straight season.
The Lady Raiders take on Florida Atlantic on Saturday in the teams’ annual Play4Kay game to support breast cancer research. They will wear their pink alternate jerseys against the Owls. Tipoff is scheduled for 2 p.m. central.