Malashka Powers Lady Raiders Past Charlotte
By: William White
MTN Sports Reporter
In a game where neither team led by more than eight points, having the ability to win close games is a necessity in the month of March.
The Lady Raiders knocked off the top seeded Charlotte 49ers 72-65 to sweep the season series and secure their 13th straight home victory.
“I thought we just gutted it up all night,” head coach Rick Insell said. “I was really proud of our players. We didn’t start out like we wanted to, then we finally got to executing our offense and doing that we were able to get some shots. We missed several chip shots again. To do what we want to do this year, we’ve got to start hitting those chip shots.”
Kseniya Malashka scored a career high 27 points off the bench, knocking down four 3-pointers while also dominating below the free throw line. The Lady Raiders once again held their opponent to under 20% shooting from beyond the arc, holding the 49ers to 4-21 (19%) from long distance.
“I was working the whole year with coach Matt (Insell) on playing as a guard,” Malashka said. “I can play both guard and post. We were working during the summer on my guard skills, and in season we developed my post skills.”
Alexis Whittington contributed to one of the biggest momentum swings in the game while once again drawing the assignment of the opponent’s best offensive player. Whittington held Charlotte’s Octavia Jett-Wilson to a mere 3-10 from the floor to go along with four turnovers. Whittington knocked down a three pointer after Courtney Whitson and Malashka battled for a rebound. MT would never trail after Whittington’s triple.
“I think the most important thing for me is to make sure everything is harder on them,” Whittington said. “Everybody I guard is a great player and some of them even all conference players. So for me, if I can just make it harder on every catch then I think I’ve done a pretty successful job and I know it helps the team in the long run so that’s what’s most important.”
Four Lady Raiders finished the night in double figures. Whitson finished with 11 points and a team high eight rebounds, while Anastasiia Boldyreva tacked on 10 points and five rebounds.
Middle Tennessee trailed 16-11 after the first quarter. The MT defense that we’ve seen all year showed up in the second quarter, holding the 49ers to just 5-15 shooting to cut the deficit to 31-29 heading into the halftime break.
Middle Tennessee would take the lead for the first time in the third quarter after an Alexis Whittington 3-pointer and never looked back. The Lady Raiders took control of the game in the final quarter as Malashka scored 11 of her 27 points in the final 10 minutes.
With the win and Western Kentucky’s loss to Marshall, Middle Tennessee can now finish no worse than third in the C-USA east division and can secure a bye to the quarterfinals with a win against Old Dominion on Senior Day Saturday. Tipoff is scheduleld for 2 p.m. in the Murphy Center.