Middle Tennessee used a strong inside-outside combination to secure its first victory of the season with a 73-62 triumph against Tennessee Tech at Hooper Eblen Center Saturday night.
The Lady Raiders (1-2) established their presence with inside authority against Tennessee Tech, but it was a series of long-range 3-pointers that provided the dagger as Middle Tennessee won its 12th straight in the series under Head Coach Rick Insell.
Five players reached double figures for the Lady Raiders, led by Alex Johnson and Abbey Sissom with 16 points each. Gabby Lyon narrowly missed a double-double with 12 points and a game-high eight rebounds. Ty Petty finished with 12 points and Rebecca Reuter scored 12 on a solid shooting night.
Middle Tennessee’s post players combined for 42 points and outscored the Golden Eagles (1-3) 42-30 in the paint.
“We challenged our post players and asked them to lead us,” Insell said. “They responded well. We can still improve in a lot of areas, but our young ladies played hard. We battled inside and that was good to see.”
While the post play was solid, it was the perimeter play that sprung Middle Tennessee in the final stanza. Sissom scored 12 of her 16 in the final quarter and was 3-for-3 during that span, while Jess Louro connected for her only trey late in the game. The four fourth-quarter treys represented all of the Lady Raiders’ makes from beyond the arc.
“Had Sissom not showed up in the fourth quarter we may not have won the game,” Insell said. “She hit some big-time shots, and Jess Louro came up with a big-time 3-pointer after a big defensive play. We had several young ladies step up and make plays.”
The game was competitive throughout with Middle Tennessee leading 33-27 at intermission. The Lady Raiders won a high-scoring third quarter 19-18 to extend the lead to 52-45 entering the final frame.
Sissom delivered Middle Tennessee’s first 3-pointer of the game with 8:37 remaining to push the lead to 57-47 and provide some breathing room, but Tech charged back and cut the deficit to five, 63-58, with 3:23 remaining.
That’s when Sissom struck again, burying a long-range jumper from the left wing to push the advantage back to eight, 66-58, at the 3:03 mark.
“We were running our offense well, and I was able to get open for some good looks,” Sissom said. “It was a tough, competitive game. We battled and had several players contribute. It’s good to get that first win, and I am glad I was able to contribute in a positive way.”
The final long-range dagger came from Louro, who got a deflection on the defensive end and then took a pass from Sissom and drained a long 3-pointer from the corner to push the lead to 69-58 with 1:42 remaining.
The Lady Raiders continued to shoot well. After finishing the second half shooting 57 percent against No. 5 Louisville, they picked up where they left off against Tennessee Tech. Middle Tennessee shot 51 percent (26-of-51) from the field. They also knocked down 74 percent of their free throws, connecting on 17-of-23 from the charity stripe.
Middle Tennessee will return to action when it plays host to Ohio, Nov. 30.