WKU Women’s Basketball: Lady Tops lose third straight, fall at Middle Tennessee 81-69

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. – WKU enjoyed its best shooting night in nearly a month and finished 25-of-30 from the free throw line, but the Lady Toppers could not overcome hot shooting by Middle Tennessee inside the Murphy Center on Thursday evening in an 81-69 setback.

Alexis Brewer made her return to the starting lineup and finished with a team-high 13 points for the Lady Toppers (14-12, 8-4 C-USA), and Dee Givens added 12 points with a perfect 10-for-10 mark from the charity stripe with four steals on the night.

As a team, WKU shot 51.4 percent (19-of-37) from the field against the Blue Raiders (19-6, 10-2 C-USA) and was 6-for-16 (37.5 percent) from three-point range. The 51.4 percent mark was the Lady Toppers’ best in a single game since shooting 53.4 percent at Florida Atlantic on Jan. 19.

Middle Tennessee knocked down 26 of its 39 shots (66.7 percent) for the game and also shot well from the free throw line, posting an 85.7 percent (24-of-28) mark on free throws.

Anna Jones led all scorers with 26 points and was joined in double figures by A’Queen Hayes (17), Jordan Majors (15) and Alex Johnson (10).

Neither side could gain any separation over the first 10 minutes of play, with both the Lady Toppers and Blue Raiders unable to gain more than a one-possession lead in the first quarter. WKU’s largest lead came after Sidnee Bopp’s three-pointer with just under a minute to play, but a layup by Jones and free throws from Majors quickly erased the narrow lead.

Middle Tennessee was able to push ahead by five points midway through the second frame on a jumper by Hayes for the largest lead of the night by either team to that point, grabbing a 24-19 advantage with 5:42 on the clock. WKU roared back, however, scoring six of the final eight points of the first half to trim the deficit to just one point, 26-25, heading into the locker room.

Much of the third quarter featured the same kind of tight action that defined the first half. Neither side could gain more than one possession of cushion over the first seven minutes of the frame before Middle Tennessee used a 9-2 run spanning two and a half minutes to grab control of the game. A pair of layups by Majors and a three-pointer by Jess Louro keyed the run for the Blue Raiders, and two free throws from Johnson at the 1:34 mark pushed Middle Tennessee’s lead to 47-39.

That Blue Raider advantage grew to as many as nine points early in the fourth quarter before the Lady Toppers mounted a spirited rally. A 9-3 run by WKU, sparked by two three-point plays by Raneem Elgedawy, slashed the Blue Raiders’ advantage to just three points, 58-55, with 7:03 remaining in the game.

Middle Tennessee fired back with seven unanswered points to end the Lady Topper rally, however, and WKU was unable to battle its way back into the game down the stretch as the Blue Raiders claimed the 81-69 victory.

With Thursday’s rivalry game in the books, WKU will head further south to Birmingham, Ala., to meet UAB inside Bartow Arena on Saturday afternoon at 2 p.m. The bout will be a rematch of the 2018 C-USA Tournament title game that the Lady Toppers claimed by a 72-57 margin, and WKU will also be seeking to avenge a 79-61 setback on the road against the Blazers during the regular season on Jan. 13, 2018, last season.