Lady Raiders fall short against Lady Vols
By Daniel Johnson MTN Sports Reporter March 21, 2021
In the first round of the NCAA Women's Basketball Tournament, MTSU struggled in the second half as the Lady Volunteers of Tennessee cruise to victory.
The Lady Raiders played a near-perfect first half against Tennessee, forcing the Volunteers to commit seven turnovers and holding them to only 1-for-8 from the 3-point line. It seemed as if MTSU had the blueprint for an opening round upset.
Despite being down as many as nine points in the first half, the Lady Raiders were able to go into halftime tied with Tennessee at 39-39, due to their hot three-point shooting. They shot 6-for-17 from deep in the first half, as forward Courtney Whitson knocked down two of them.
The Hayes’ sisters, Anastasia and Aislynn, combined for 23 of MTSU's 39 first half points.
The second half was a different story. The length of Tennessee provided many issues for the Lady Raiders as they could not get quality shots on offense, and were out rebounded by 27 in the second half.
“We felt like coming out at halftime that they were going to go their big kids”, said Lady Raiders head coach Rick Insell. “They tried to earlier and I got one in foul trouble. We had a couple of defensive break downs that is not really common to us. You’ve got to box out and you’ve got to take care of the ball."
To put the second half scoring struggles in perspective, the Lady Raiders combined for just 23 total second half points after scoring 21 points in the second quarter alone. Anastasia Hayes led MTSU with 26 points and five assists. Aislynn Hayes pitched in with 15 points and two assists.
“They took control and we didn’t box out”, said Anastasia Hayes. “They executed their plays and they were way bigger than us. We did all we could do. We didn’t knock down shots that we usually knock down and we let their size get to us."
Despite the 87-62 loss to Tennessee, the Blue Raiders were able to capture the CUSA title in a season full of distractions.
“We had a great year looking at what we’ve gone into with the COVID situation”, said Insell. “It’s been tough on our players and coaches. I’m really proud of our team and what they have been able to accomplish this year. We’ll just have to come back, go to work, recruit a little more and get after it next year.”