MURFREESBORO, Tenn. – On a day when Middle Tennessee’s Athletic Communication Office launched a social media campaign to get senior Brea Edwards in the State Farm 3-Point contest, she backed their effort by displaying her sharpshooting skills to a national TV audience.
Edwards poured in a game-high 29 points on the strength of five 3-pointers to lead Middle Tennessee to an exhilarating, 83-75, win against rival WKU (17-3, 8-1) in front of 5,125 at Murphy Center in a game televised by FOX Sports.
MTSU Women (13-7, 7-2) won its fourth straight, a season high, and tasted victory for the sixth time in seven games as the league race reached the halfway point. The Blue Raiders improved to 10-0 at home against WKU under Head Coach Rick Insell and did so by ending the Lady Hilltoppers’ 14-game win streak and handing them their first conference loss in nine games.
“It was a great game by two very good teams that put it all on the line tonight,” Insell said. “WKU has a really good basketball team, but so do we. This was a team win in every sense of the word. Every young lady who played for the Blue Raiders tonight contributed to this win. We have had three straight weeks of games like this one and these young ladies just keep finding ways to win. Words can’t begin to explain how happy I am for this basketball team.”
Edwards produced her fourth double-double of the season with a game-high 12 rebounds to go with her game-high 29 points. She played all 40 minutes and was 7-for-10 from the field, 5-for-6 from 3-point range and 10-for-12 from the free-throw line.
Edwards was dazzling but she was far from a one-woman wrecking crew.
The Blue Raiders placed four players in double figures for the second straight game. Ty Petty had her third double-double of the season with 17 points and 11 assists. Petty become the first Blue Raider with three double-figure assist games in the same season in 40 years, joining former point guard Jan Zitney accomplished the feat three times in 1975-76.
Sophomore Abbey Sissom nearly registered a career high. Her 16 points were one shy of her career high of 17, and freshman standout Alex Johnson finished with 14 points and tied her season high with six rebounds. Caroline Warden finished with three points but her defense and the manner in which she ran the team in the third quarter and early fourth were keys to the win. Warden helped stifle WKU’s Kendall Noble during a stretch of the third quarter when the Blue Raiders were whittling away an eight-point WKU lead.
Middle Tennessee led 44-38 at the half after producing its highest-scoring half of the season. Edwards was 5-for-6 from beyond the arc in the first half, including five consecutive makes as she powered in 19 points at the intermission.
WKU went to a box-and-one on Edwards in the second half and the senior didn’t force matters. In fact, she didn’t attempt a 3-point shot in the second half as others started to get more involved in the offense.
WKU built its largest lead of the game, an eight-point advantage, when it went on top 57-49 with 2:43 remaining in the third quarter. The Hilltoppers appeared to be gaining momentum when Warden knocked down a driving layup and Sissom followed with a long-range 3-pointer to cut the deficit to 57-54 with 1:39 remaining.
The Hilltoppers built the lead back to four, 59-55, at the end of the third quarter but momentum seemed to be shifting in Middle Tennessee’s favor.
The game was tied four times in the fourth quarter but Middle Tennessee took the lead for good when Johnson connected for two free throws to give the Blue Raiders a 66-65 lead with 5:10 remaining. After a defensive stop, Sissom knocked down her fourth 3-pointer to push the lead to 69-65 with 4:13 remaining. WKU would not get closer than four the remainder of the way as the Blue Raiders converted all 10 of their free-throw attempts in the final 51 seconds to seal the victory.
The Blue Raiders improved to 18-4 against WKU under Insell, and 33-24 all-time against the Hilltoppers. They also improved to 12-0 this season when leading at intermission.
WKU had five players in double figures, led by Tashia Brown’s 19 points.
Middle Tennessee will look to continue its winning ways when it faces Florida Atlantic in Boca Raton, Fla., Thursday.