Story by Calvin White / Contributing Writer
The Lady Raiders cruised past the Demon Deacons of Wake Forest 67-55 to advance to the sweet 16 of the WNIT.
Middle Tennessee dominated the first three quarters of the game with suffocating defense to hold the Demon Deacons to just 30 percent shooting for the entire game. Wake Forest outscored the Lady Raiders 19-8 in the fourth quarter but it wasn’t enough to overcome a 23 point deficit after the third quarter.
“There late, we got to playing the scoreboard and that’s not good, very disappointed in that,” Middle Tennessee head coach Rick Insell said. “But, I’m very pleased with what we did up to that point. I’m very proud of our young ladies, they played hard, they came out with the right energy early. They put the ball in the hole, we ran our offense and if we do that, we’ll be good. We’ve got to continue to do that because it’s not going to get any easier.”
Courtney Blakely provided a big boost off the bench for Insell, scoring 12 points on 4-7 shooting to go along with her air-tight defense.
“I wanted to come out and be a spark,” Blakely said. “On defense I just wanted to come out and try to get some steals.”
Kseniya Malashka and Anastasiia Boldryeva got whatever they wanted in the paint against the Demon Deacons. Malashka scored 18 points to lead all MT scorers while Boldryeva scored 12 points.
“I think ball movement led to our good game,” Malashka said. “I think we moved the ball really well in and out and also on the perimeter. We could get any shots we wanted to.”
The Lady Raiders were on fire out of the gate, knocking down seven of their 15 shot attempts in the first quarter, including 3-of-6 from beyond the arc to jump out to a 20-13 lead after one quarter of play.
MT held Wake Forest to just 5-of-15 from the floor in the second quarter to take a 38-25 lead into the halftime break. Malashka led the Lady Raiders with 12 points at the break.
The Lady Raiders widened the gap even more in the third quarter, outscoring the Demon Deacons 21-11 while shooting 56 percent from the floor to take a 59-36 lead into the final quarter of play.
Middle Tennessee going cold in the fourth quarter along with some foul trouble led to Wake Forest outscoring the Lady Raiders 19-8 in the period, but it wasn’t enough to overcome a 23 point deficit. It was the 24th time this season that the Lady Raiders have held their opponent under 60 points.
Middle Tennessee will host Vanderbilt in the sweet 16 of the WNIT on Thursday night at Murphy Center. Tipoff is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Central time.