Buffaloes Run Over the Lady Raiders to Advance in March Madness
Updated: May 6
By: Ryan Martinolich
MTN Sports Reporter
Durham N.C- The season was filled with many accomplishments for the Middle Tennessee Lady Raiders, but they fell short of one milestone for the year: a NCAA tournament victory, as they lost to Colorado 82-60
The Lady Raiders came into this year’s tournament as an eleven seed following their fourth C-USA tournament championship where the sixth seeded Buffaloes, who opened on the betting lines as the projected underdog, were waiting.
“I can't speak on the team. I keep a mental note of just like being an underdog. That is who I am. That is what I have always been. That is what I bring to the team, the energy and fire from being the underdog,” Colorado senior guard Jaylyn Sherrod said when asked about this being a potential upset game. She would finish the game with 13 points and 6 assists.
The Buffaloes started their stampede with a barrage of threes in the first quarter, where junior forward Frida Formann and senior guard Tayanna Jones combined for 14 points and four of the five made threes. The scoring duo helped Colorado run out to a 22-11 lead by the end of the first quarter.
“We just found our shooters wide open. Even though it wasn't something we have done before, if that is what they are giving us, we were good at taking advantage of it today,” Formann said in the post-game press conference, after finishing the night with 21 points.
The Lady Raiders would find themselves back in the game, thanks to seniors Kseniya Malashka and Alexis Whittington combining for 10 points in the second quarter, helping Middle Tennessee get within five with under two minutes in the first half, but a late 9-0 run from Colorado would have Middle Tennessee going into the locker room down by 14 at the half, 42-28.
“I mean, if they hit one or two, okay. After the second one, you have to start jabbing at them. My girl, she hit the first two in the first quarter. When that happens, you have to adjust a bit to the person. Credit to them.” junior guard Savannah Wheeler said, who finished the game 15 points, but missed all six of her three point field goal attempts.
And it would not get any easier getting back in the game and guarding the Buffaloes as Colorado made six more threes in the third quarter and shooting nearly 65 percent from the field overall, outscoring the Lady Raiders 28-16 in the third quarter to take a 26 point lead going into the 4th quarter.
“They just made the plays. They are a good basketball team. They are in a tough conference, much like us. Tonight was their night,” Lady Raiders head coach Rick Insell said.
It was an uncharacteristic night for Middle Tennessee on the defensive side, who coming into the night only limiting opponents to an average of 56 points per game and five made threes, but in the end, they were outrebounded 43-29, and the Buffaloes would shoot 13 for 27 from beyond the ark.
“The worst thing we did, was we didn't box out, specifically, me. That is why they out-rebound us. They had a good percentage of threes, even though it was our hands, and we lost the shooters,” sophomore center Anastaysiia Boldyreva said,
It was the first NCAA tournament win for Colorado in twenty years and head coach JR Payne could not be happier for her team.
“It feels incredible. This entire year has been incredible, though… I absolutely love them. They work hard, they are selfless, they celebrate each other. Every opportunity that I have to get to be with these guys and then to win a game, it is a blessing. An absolute blessing.” Payne said
With the win Colorado will have a dual with the three-seeded Duke Blue Devils on Monday night following Duke’s victory over the fourteenth seeded Iona Gaels 89-49
With the season done for the Lady Raiders, Coach Insell said they still had a lot to be proud of with a 28-win season and a regular season conference title on top of a conference tournament title, “my hat’s off to our players, also. We have been in the fire…I am very proud of them. Just very proud of them.”