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Lady Raiders make short work of Lady Buccaneers in exhibition play

By: Chris Sakacsi

MTN Sports Reporter

A showcase of talent propels MT to shutdown CBU

Murfreesboro, Tennessee- Friday night marked the beginning of preseason basketball for the Lady Raiders as they took on Christian Brothers University at Murphy Center. In a performance that could be described as defensive slugfest meets track competition, MT exploited sloppy team rotations from CBU with open shots and transition baskets to win 95-38.

MT’s starting lineup included four carryovers from last season’s squad, Alexis Whittington, Courtney Whitson, Anastasiia Boldyreva, and Jalynn Gregory who scored a team-high 20 points.

Taking the place of graduate Dor Saar was transfer guard Savannah Wheeler, who was offensively relentless in her Lady Raiders debut. Wheeler scored an efficient 18 points on isolation plays, jumpers off the catch, and points in the paint with zero regard for the Lady Bucs bigs. Wheeler didn’t shy away from how excited she was to take the floor, “I was getting chills the night before just thinking about it, it was amazing, and the crowd was great.”

From the outset, ball movement was on full display as Gregory knocked down a triple to give MT the lead it would never come close to relinquishing. Thanks to the Lady Raiders defensive efforts, the Lady Bucs were held to a single point after the first quarter where they’d find themselves down 25-1. Things wouldn’t get much better for CBU in the first half as they only managed to connect on 5-13 attempted shots. MT was able to hold CBU’s scoring leaders from last season to a combined 3-16 field goals in the first half, and 5-25 for the game. By halftime, the home team led 44-13.

Still, Head Coach Rick Insell isn’t satisfied. “We’ve got to do a better job positioning,” Insell said. “We did a great job on off-ball defense, but a terrible job on-ball. Alexis can set, Jalynn is a great defender, and Courtney (Whitson) can keep everyone in gear, but we have to do a better job.”

Early in the game, freshmen forwards Ta’Mia Scott and Lanae Riley confidently checked in for their first reps of college ball. Scott was aggressive with the time she was given, adding 12 points and 6 rebounds in 25 minutes. “It was exciting to finally put everything into play with my team,” Scott said. As for Riley, she showed her ability to stretch the floor as a backup big with three connected triples on three shots. “I was excited, we’ve been preparing for this all summer and we’re finally here with the regular season coming up,” Riley said.

The group effort of the Lady Raiders continued in the second half, where Coach Insell experimented with different lineups. These rotations included Gregory at point, as well as a three-freshman lineup that threw frontcourt player Meioshe Mason into the action. The team managed to score more points in the second half with 51, never putting their foot off the pedal. Considering every player had a positive net rating, or positive impact in their time played, this contest was an encouraging start to a promising season.

When asked how the team could improve going forward Coach Insell said, “We must do a better job giving it to Anastasiia (Boldyreva) so she can score. We didn’t do a good job and that took her out of position, but we’re expecting big things from her.” Boldyreva, who earned a spot on the C-USA All-Freshman Team last season looks to be a dominant low-post threat this season. Wheeler also noted that she sees this game as only the beginning for what the Lady Raiders can be. “With shooters and an inside presence, we’re going to progress, we’re going to get better as a team.”

MTSU is set to play UT Southern for their second and final exhibition game at Murphy Center on Tuesday, November 1st.

Stats courtesy of stats.statbroadcast.com

Photo courtesy of Maya Lewis-Athletic Communications