Middle Tennessee jumped out to a commanding lead and held on for a riveting 83-81 win at Charlotte to remain atop the C-USA standings here Saturday.
The Lady Raiders (16-8, 11-2) tied their season-high win streak at five games by sweeping the tough road swing through Old Dominion and Charlotte (17-7, 9-4), but Saturday’s win was not without high-intensity drama.
Rebecca Reuter and Jess Louro produced career efforts to help propel Middle Tennessee. Reuter finished with a career-high 23 points and pulled seven rebounds. Louro finished with 18 points and six 3-pointers, both career highs.
Ty Petty was a stat sheet stuffer once again with 18 points on 7-of-11 shooting to go with eight assists, six rebounds and three steals. Alex Johnson finished with 16 points and six rebounds. Gabby Lyon (4), Charity Savage (2) and Kyla Allison (2) also got into the scoring column and every point was crucial in the two-point win.
“What a gutsy win for our team on the road against an outstanding Charlotte team,” Lady Raider Head Coach Rick Insell said. “It’s not me. It’s those young ladies that put on the Lady Raider uniform and represent it with pride and class. These young ladies certainly make our University proud. I know they make me proud.”
Everything was clicking for Middle Tennessee early as it jumped out to a 46-30 halftime lead and stretched it to 23 with 8:03 remaining in the third quarter.
Charlotte put up a valiant fight in coming back and eventually took its first lead, 72-71, on a Grace Hunter 3-pointer with 4:08 remaining.
Charlotte took a 78-76 lead with 1:23 remaining, and Petty misfired on a 3-pointer on the other end, but there was Reuter who came up with one of her five offensive rebounds, and powered it up and in and drew the foul. Reuter completed the three-point play to put Middle Tennessee back on top 79-78 with 50 seconds remaining.
Hunter missed a chance to put Charlotte back in front and Louro came down with a big rebound and shoveled the ball to Petty, who was fouled and hit both shots to put Middle Tennessee up three, 81-78, with 18 ticks remaining.
Charlotte called a timeout to set up a game-tying shot, but Abbey Sissom and Louro doubled Ciara Gregory at the top of the perimeter and forced an off-balanced 3-point attempt that missed the mark. Reuter was fouled and hit both shots to seal the win with five seconds remaining.
“We had so many people step up and make winning plays and you have to have that on the road,” Insell said. “Reuter and Louro came up big tonight. It always seems to be different people contributing and that’s why they are team wins. This was another big team win. Reuter really battled, and Louro made some big-time shots.”
Louro’s biggest 3-pointer, her sixth, came with 3:53 remaining after Hunter had given Charlotte its first lead. Louro followed with a clutch trey from the corner to give the Lady Raiders the lead back.
First place will be on the line once again when Middle Tennessee battles rival WKU at Murphy Center Thursday. The Lady Raiders own a one-half game lead over the Lady Hilltoppers for the top spot in the league standings.