Lady Blue Raiders Ready To Bring Home Championship


#2 seeded Middle Tennessee will begin play in the 2016 C-USA Championship against  No. 10 seed Rice during quarterfinal action at Bartow Arena Thursday at 5 p.m.

The Blue Raiders (21-8) carry the No. 2 seed into the tournament after compiling a 15-3 league worksheet, they have bring a wealth of momentum with them after winning 12 of their last 13. The game will be televised on WNAB-TV in the Nashville market.

“Our team has played well down the stretch but the thing that pleases me is our team has improved tremendously as we have progressed through January, February and now into March,” Middle Tennessee Head Coach Rick Insell said. “You want to be playing your best at tournament time. I would think our team has been playing a pretty good brand of basketball down the stretch.”

Insell said that is paramount against a tournament field that features strong teams who also have played well down the stretch.

“There are no easy games left,” Insell said. “Everyone playing is good and, as we have said all season, there are no easy nights in C-USA.”

Middle Tennessee has been an outstanding tournament team under Insell. The Blue Raiders are 9-1 in first-round conference tournament games under his leadership with the only setback coming in 2011 just days following the tragic death of Lady Raider Tina Stewart.

Six of Middle Tennessee’s 14 conference tournament titles have come under Insell’s watch. Middle Tennessee owns a 55-20 all-time mark in conference tournaments that spans the school’s tenure in the Ohio Valley, Sun Belt and C-USA. The Blue Raiders are 23-4 all-time in conference tournament action under Insell.

The Blue Raiders were 2-0 against Louisiana Tech and Rice during the season. They beat Tech, 68-57, in Murfreesboro, and used a 3-pointer with five seconds remaining to turn back Rice, 61-60, in Houston. Middle Tennessee was 8-1 against teams in its half of the bracket during the regular season.

Middle Tennessee relies on the consistent play of senior Brea Edwards, junior Ty Petty and freshman Alex Johnson, all of whom were named to All-Conference USA teams; however, the Blue Raiders count on more than the talented trio.

Sophomores Abbey Sissom and Gabby Lyon have excelled since moving into the starting lineup in early January, and reserves Caroline Warden, TiAnna Porter and Rebecca Reuter have been consistent in their roles. In fact, Porter is playing the best basketball of her career entering the tournament.

“I think what I am most proud of with this team is the unselfishness,” Insell said. “With teams everyone has a role and how well people play their role generally dictates what type of team you have. The players on this team have embraced their role and do what is necessary to help the team have success. It is a very unselfish bunch that pulls for each other.”

The winner of Thursday’s quarterfinal will play in the semifinals at 12:30 p.m. Friday.
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