– In front of a large crowd on Murfreesboro City Schools Education Day, Middle Tennessee suffered a 73-52 setback against the Ohio Bobcats Wednesday.
"We've got a long way to go," Middle Tennessee Head Coach Rick Insell
said. "They came out in front of this hostile crowd and took it to us, and that's all you can say.
"I want to compliment Dr. (Linda) Gilbert and Mrs. (Lisa) Trail – they did a great job of organizing this day, and the communication was unbelievable. Those young people out there made the whole day, to be completely honest. They had to have a lot of teachers and administrators involved, and we appreciate it."
The Blue Raiders (1-3) trailed by just one point with 4:28 left in the third quarter, but a 13-2 Bobcat (5-0) run over the remainder of the period pushed the lead to double digits, and Middle Tennessee couldn't respond.
"They're mentally tougher than our team," Insell said. "They start six seniors … and we didn't play good defense and weren't as mentally tough as their basketball team."
The Blue Raiders didn't have their best game offensively, shooting just 40.4 percent from the floor and turning the ball over 26 times. They shot just four 3-pointers, hitting one, but were effective in the paint.
On the other side, Ohio hit 13 of its 31 attempts from beyond the arc. It was the most made 3-pointers given up by the Raiders since 1994.
"Ohio is a shooting team … this team can shoot, and if they're on, they're on," senior guard Ty Petty
Middle Tennessee established their game plan from the opening tip. They wanted to get the ball inside as early and often as possible, and turned their determination into 30 points in the painted area.
They also dominated the battle on the backboards, outrebounding the Bobcats 43 to 25 and ripping down 15 offensive rebounds.
The conscious effort to score down low also caused a lot of Ohio fouls. Middle Tennessee went to the free-throw line 18 times and was effective once getting there, hitting 13 of them.
While they upped their free-throw shooting percentage to 70 percent on the season, Insell said he wants the Raider guards to get to the line with more regularity.
"Our two and three position should be going to the line 12-15 times a night, but we aren't doing that right now," he said. "We have a lot of areas we need to sure up."
Sophomore Alex Johnson
was the main driver behind getting to the free-throw line. She struggled at times hitting shots from the floor, but made up for it by sinking 9-of-10 attempts from the stripe in a 13-point outing.
Johnson also added six rebounds, three assists and blocked two Ohio shots.
Petty followed up a 27-point performance in the Raiders' first home game against Louisville by leading the team with 14 points on 6-for-11 shooting from the floor. She has now scored in double digits in every game this season, and she also added eight rebounds and four assists in the loss.
"I think I just have to continue to get better as a leader as a senior and run this ball team," Petty said. "After this loss, I have to continue to uplift everybody and move forward from here."
Junior Gabby Lyon
was also in double digits scoring with 10 points.
Looking ahead, Middle Tennessee is back in action Saturday in a 3 p.m. tipoff at the Murphy Center against Tulane.
"[Wednesday's] was a really bad game as a team, and we just have to learn from this and come back better, come back stronger," Lyon said.