Middle Tennessee clinched the No. 2 seed in the C-USA Championship and continued its offensive prowess with a strong shooting night in a decisive 88-53 win against FIU here Thursday night.
Alex Johnson led all scorers with 32 points in 31 minutes of play as she poured in a career-high 14 field goals in just 19 attempts. The sophomore standout moved within 11 points of 1,000 for her career.
Abbey Sissom continued her torrid shooting pace with 17 points on 5-of-9 shooting from 3-point range. She also added four assists. Sissom is 20-of-29 from 3-point range over her last four games.
Senior Ty Petty had another remarkable outing and narrowly missed a triple-double. Petty finished with 12 points, 11 assists and seven rebounds in 28 minutes of action – her fewest minutes of the season. Rebecca Reuter rounded out four players in double figures with 12 on 4-of-5 shooting.
Jess Louro (6), Kyla Allison (4), Katie Collier (3) and Gabby Lyon (2) also got into the scoring column for Middle Tennessee.
It continued an offensive windfall for the Lady Raiders (19-9, 14-3), who have scored 70-plus in eight straight games. They have scored 80 or more in seven of the last 12 games, winning all seven.
The Lady Raiders came into the game ranked 16th nationally in 3-point field goal percentage and that should only improve after blistering the nets for 46 percent (10-of-22) against the Golden Panthers. Middle Tennessee shot 59 percent (34-of-58) from the field.
Perhaps the way Middle Tennessee’s unselfish players shared the ball had something to do with their strong shooting effort Thursday. The Lady Raiders had assists on 25 of their 34 field goals, led by Petty’s 11. Allison and Sissom added four each. In fact, Middle Tennessee’s starting guards – Petty, Sissom and Allison – combined for 19 assists and just three turnovers in the victory.
“We shared the ball and moved the ball so well,” Middle Tennessee Head Coach Rick Insell said. “We have a very unselfish team so that is not surprising, but that crisp ball movement helped us find open players and execute our offense at a very high rate. We have been playing well offensively over the last few weeks, but I am also proud of our defensive effort during that time. We haven’t let up on the defensive end because of the offensive success we have had.”
Case in point – the Lady Raiders held FIU to 36 percent shooting from the field and allowed just 21 halftime points on their way to the big win.
Middle Tennessee jumped out to a 21-6 first quarter lead and never looked back. The Lady Raiders built the lead to 53-21 by halftime and cruised to the conference road win.
“I was pleased that our players never lost their intensity,” Insell said. “They didn’t play the scoreboard. They played the game. I was pleased with the overall effort.”
Middle Tennessee will look to secure its 20th win when it closes the regular season against Florida Atlantic in Boca Raton Saturday. Tipoff is 5 p.m.