Featured photo by Matt Posey
Story by Calvin White
Frisco, TX- High-powered offense and suffocating defense propelled No. 25 Middle Tennessee women’s basketball to an 84-53 thrashing of the Charlotte 49ers in the quarterfinal round of the Conference USA tournament at The Ford Center.
The 49ers (12-19) started the game in a 2-3 zone defense in an attempt to neutralize the Lady Raiders’ (26-4) attempts to get in the paint, but Middle Tennessee was able to penetrate the zone and kick the ball out for open 3-pointers. Charlotte likes to extend the zone, so when the shots from deep aren’t falling, the Lady Raiders were able to throw the ball inside to Kseniya Malashka and Asastasiia Boldyreva and let them operate in the paint.
“It’s a real extended 2-3 so when they’re very extended like that, we have great post players and that creates a lot of one-on-one action down low in the post for our post players.” MTSU guard Savannah Wheeler said.
Middle Tennessee outscored the 49ers 26-12 in the second quarter to take a 46-25 lead into the halftime break. The Lady Raiders held Charlotte to a mere 31.5 percent shooting, including 1-for-14 from beyond the arc.
Alexis Whittington and a handful of other Lady Raiders held Charlotte’s two leading scorers, Dazia Lawrence and Jada McMillian, to a combined 14 points on 4-for-19 shooting.
In her first Conference USA Tournament game as a Lady Raider, Wheeler scored 28 points, grabbed six rebounds, and dished out three assists. Whittington scored 17 points on 4-for-5 shooting from beyond the arc.
84 points are tied for the most points scored in a Conference USA Tournament game in program history, tying the previous record of 84 points against Southern Miss in the 2014 C-USA Tournament Championship Game.
The Lady Raiders scored 19 second-chance points on 13 offensive rebounds and scored 25 points off of 17 Charlotte turnovers.
I thought our quick start, putting the ball in the hole like we did, knocking down some threes, Alexis Whittington coming to play at that position was big for us,” MTSU head coach Rick Insell said. “And then you go to the other end and I thought defensively that after the first three or four possessions, we kind of got in sync. Every shot that they have, we made it tough on them.”
Middle Tennessee will play in the Conference USA Tournament Semifinals against the UTEP Miners who beat Louisiana Tech 64-54. Tip-off is scheduled for 4:30 p.m. CT tomorrow afternoon on ESPN+.
Calvin White is the sports editor for MTSU Sidelines. If you have information for a story, you can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.