Featured photo by Conference USA
Story by Calvin White
Frisco, TX- No. 25 Middle Tennessee women’s basketball rolled past Western Kentucky 82-70 Saturday afternoon to win the 2023 Conference USA Tournament at The Ford Center and punch their ticket to the big dance.
MTSU (28-4) allowed the Lady Toppers (19-13) to get out and run early by turning it over seven times which led to a tied game after one quarter of play. The score wouldn’t stay tied for long as the Lady Raiders shot 10-for-14 from the field in the second quarter to score 32 points in the frame. WKU had no answer for MTSU’s stifling defense as the Lady Toppers only scored 16 points in the quarter allowing MTSU to take a 47-31 halftime lead.
MTSU controlled the game the rest of the way, winning the third and fourth quarters to seal the victory. WKU forced some turnovers in the fourth quarter but the Lady Raiders’ deliberately killed the clock by running their offensive sets down the stretch.
“Very proud of our young ladies,” MTSU head coach Rick Insell said. “They’ve been under the gun all year long and now we don’t get to prove that we had an at-large bid. Proud to represent Middle Tennessee State University.”
Jalynn Gregory was named MVP of the tournament after scoring a team-high 24 points on a 5-for-5 night from beyond the arc and was 7-for-7 at the free throw line. In her final conference tournament game, Alexis Whittington scored 16 points on 4-for-6 shooting from 3-point range to go along with six rebounds. Kseniya Malashka scored 14 points and was also named to the all-tournament team.
I didn’t even know what they were announcing,” Gregory said. “Then I hear my name and everybody looks at me. They said ‘Go up there.’ I was really in shock. But I was more worried about winning the championship than anything else.”
The win marks the 17th conference tournament win in program history. Nine of the 17 conference tournament wins have come under Insell and four of the titles have come in Conference USA.
The Lady Raiders outrebounded WKU 46-31, including bringing down 17 offensive rebounds for 13 second chance points. Savannah Wheeler and Gregory combined to go 16-for-16 at the free throw line to take advantage of the Lady Toppers’ aggressive defense.
The Lady Raiders await the announcement of where they will play in the NCAA Tournament, which will be revealed on Sunday’s selection show at 7:00 p.m. CT.
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.