Featured photo by Matt Posey
Story by Calvin White
Frisco, TX- Despite foul trouble and offensive lapses, the No. 25 Middle Tennessee women’s basketball team played excellent defense down the stretch to eliminate the UTEP Miners 68-62 on Friday in the semifinals of the Conference USA Tournament.
MTSU (27-4) led nearly the entire game and even led by as much as 15 at one point but early fouls to multiple key players gave UTEP (20-11) an opportunity to cut into the lead just before halftime. The Lady Raiders held the Miners to just 23.1 percent shooting in the second quarter but UTEP trailed by just five at intermission.
UTEP cut the deficit to one, then started the fourth quarter on a 5-0 run to take the lead. Alexis Whittington countered the Miner run by finishing a layup through contact and completing the old fashioned 3-point play to give the Lady Raiders the lead for good. Free throws from Jalynn Gregory and 3-pointers from Courtney Whitson put the game out of reach for the Miners.
“I was really proud of our kids. I was really proud of Jalynn,” MTSU head coach Rick Insell said. “There’s not one of them that played that didn’t do a really good job. Courtney Blakely did a good job, Savannah, Whitson came back in and ended up with 18 points. Kseniya, a double-double, one of her better games. So I was really proud of our young ladies. We live to play another day. We play for the championship, and that’s what we came here for.”
Gregory led MTSU with 22 points while making three 3-pointers and hauling in seven rebounds. Whitson scored 18 points along with five 3-pointers and Kseniya Malashka scored 18 points and grabbed 14 rebounds.
Middle Tennessee grabbed 16 offensive rebounds that resulted in 19 second chance points. The Lady Raiders outrebounded UTEP 43-30 overall and limited the Miners to seven offensive rebounds.
“They just told us to keep shooting and we’ve been doing really good staying on the boards,” Gregory said. “There was a couple that we missed that Courtney and Kseniya and everybody else was just crashing the boards. If we’re missing the shots and we’re still getting the rebounds, it kind of makes up for it.”
The Lady Raiders will play in the Conference USA Championship game against the No. 2 seed Western Kentucky at 4:30 p.m. CT on Saturday.
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.