MURFREESBORO, Tenn. – Defense and balanced scoring continue to be the staple for Middle Tennessee’s team as it approaches the halfway mark of the C-USA race.
The Blue Raiders (12-7, 6-2) put together another defensive showpiece in their 65-54 win against Marshall in front of 3,958 at Murphy Center Thursday. Middle Tennessee won its third straight overall and fifth game in six outings overall to remain in the thick of the league race. Saturday’s game against WKU marks the halfway point of the conference slate.
Marshall came into Thursday’s contest averaging a league-best 73.7 points per outing, but Middle Tennessee held the Herd (13-6, 3-5) to their second-lowest scoring total of the season and 19.7 points below their season average.
The Blue Raiders tied their season high with 12 steals, led by Gabby Lyon’s four picks, and also forced 18 Marshall turnovers which led to 17 points.
“We work on getting our hands in the lanes and getting deflections every single day,” MT Head Coach Rick Insell said. “And we had some deflections tonight and we were able to do some things. I am proud of the defensive effort. Our team defense has been pretty good and consistent lately so that was a plus again tonight against a good Marshall team that has been putting up a lot of points this season. It’s great to get the win.”
The Blue Raiders also held the Thundering Herd to a low 30.8 shooting percentage (16-of-52) from the field, including a 23.1 percent clip (6-of-26) from 3-point range.
Offensively, Middle Tennessee was just as productive, shooting 47.8 percent (22-of-46) from the floor, including 40 percent (6-of-15) from 3-point territory.
Four players registered double figures, led by the steady play of Brea Edwards and Ty Petty with 17 points. Caroline Warden added a season high 12 points and Alex Johnson totaled 11 points and five rebounds.
Petty has been one of the conference’s elite players since the outset of league play and Thursday was no different. The diminutive Petty nearly produced the second triple double in program history with 17 points, eight assists and seven rebounds. The stat sheet stuffer also played 40 minutes for the fifth time this season.
Edwards just missed a double-double. She had seven rebounds to go with her 17 points. Rebecca Reuter also shared in game-high rebounding honors with seven, marking the eighth time she has pulled at least seven boards. Those contributions helped the Blue Raiders outrebound Marshall by a whopping 40-27 margin.
“When our defense started picking up, that’s when we started getting open looks and knocked down our shots,” Warden said. “I think our defense created for our offense tonight.”
Marshall came out hot and led 16-9 after the opening quarter but that’s when Middle Tennessee’s defense started to buckle down and take control. The Blue Raiders outscored the Herd 18-10 in the second frame to take a 27-26 advantage into the half.
The Blue Raiders continued to methodically pull away after halftime. They took their largest lead with 4:08 remaining in the third quarter after a 7-0 run by the Blue Raiders, using 3-point baskets from Edwards and Abbey Sissom.
Petty knocked down a layup with nine seconds left in the third quarter to give the Blue Raiders a huge 50-35 advantage going into the last quarter of play.
Marshall cut the MT lead down to single digits with 3:16 left in the fourth before an Edwards layup pushed the Blue Raiders to a 10-point lead.
Immediately afterwards, Petty jumped in front of a Marshall pass, taking it the distance for a layup, giving MT a 59-47 lead with 3:03 left in the fourth quarter.
The Blue Raiders used five points from Edwards in the closing minutes of play, eventually coasting to the 65-54 victory.
Insell and the Blue Raiders remain at home as they take on C-USA rival Western Kentucky on Jan. 30. Tip-off is scheduled for 5 p.m.