MTSU suffocates Belmont in home opener

Savannah Wheeler and Kseniya Malashka warm up. Photo by MTSU Athletics.

Story by Calvin White/Sports Editor

Murfreesboro- Air-tight defense and a dominant paint presence helped lead MTSU women’s basketball (2-1) past the Belmont Bruins (1-2) 80-62 Wednesday night at the Murphy Center.

The Lady Raiders were like a boa constrictor all night on defense, forcing Belmont into 17 first half turnovers to help it gain an early 22-7 advantage at the end of the first quarter.   

Although the long distance shots weren’t falling, MTSU still found ways to score. Savannah Wheeler sliced through the Bruins defense for layup after layup while Kseniya Malashka used her variety of post moves to find the bottom of the net. The Lady Raiders racked up a total of 46 points in the paint.

Malashka led all scorers with 23 points, closely followed by Wheeler with 22. Malashka also grabbed nine rebounds for a near double-double performance and was nine of 14 at the free throw line.

“Just executing our offense was the biggest key,” Malashka said. “My teammates helped me to get open. If we didn’t get it from the first ball screen, then we try to get it from the second one, and that’s how they found me on the block.”

Alexis Whittington drew the assignment of guarding Belmont guard Destinee Wells. Wells was the 2021-22 Tennessee Sports Writers Association Player of the Year but Whittington held her to just five points on three shots. Whittington and Courtney Whitson saw all 40 minutes of game time.

“I’ll have to compliment my staff,” MTSU head coach Rick Insell said. “Matt (Insell) had the scout, Tom Hodges worked hard behind the scene on analytics. Kim (Brewton) and Nina (Davis) is on the scout helping Matt, the staff is responsible for today. We had Belmont, I thought we defended them about as well as we could defend them.”

The Lady Raiders travel to Las Vegas, NV over Thanksgiving break to participate in the Las Vegas Invitational. Their first game will be against Texas Tech on Friday, Nov. 25. Tip-off is scheduled for 1:00 p.m. CT.

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