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Lady Tops win at MTSU, lead C-USA standings

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. – WKU snapped a 13-year drought inside the Murphy Center and took control of the top of the C-USA standings on Thursday evening, defeating archrival Middle Tennessee, 82-75, to earn a regular season sweep of the series.

The Lady Toppers (19-6, 11-2 C-USA) earned their first road win against new Hall of Fame coach Rick Insell and the Blue Raiders (16-9, 11-3) since the 2003-04 campaign. WKU knocked down 10 of its 25 three-pointers (40.0 percent) in the victory and now leads C-USA by a half-game over the Blue Raiders.

Tashia Brown spearheaded the Lady Toppers’ offense with 25 points on the evening, one of five WKU players in double figures. Ivy Brown, coming off a career-best performance last Saturday at Marshall, tallied 16 points and Micah Jones (12), Kyvin Goodin-Rogers (11) and Kendall Noble (10) rounded out the quintet.

For Middle Tennessee, Alex Johnson led all scorers with 33 points on 12-of-15 shooting and also pulled down a game-best six rebounds. Ty Petty poured in 17 points for the Blue Raiders with seven assists, but also committed six turnovers on the night. Abbey Sissom also reached double figures for Middle Tennessee with 14 points.

Neither side could gain more than a one-possession edge over the first three minutes of the contest. WKU led by three points on a pair of occasions before finally breaking through on Goodin-Rogers’ three-pointer with 6:11 on the clock to take a 12-8 edge.

Middle Tennessee fired back later in the first quarter and surged ahead on the strength of a 9-0 run. Johnson poured in five points during the stretch for the Blue Raiders, who emerged with a 24-19 lead with just over one minute remaining in the first frame.

WKU regained the lead on Ivy Brown’s triple just over two minutes into the second quarter and would not relinquish that edge for the remainder of the half. Buoyed by a barrage of four three-pointers over the 10-minute period, include Sidnee Bopp’s shot from the right side with 11 seconds left, WKU carried a 45-35 lead into the halftime break.

Facing a 10-point deficit two minutes into the third quarter, Middle Tennessee used a 12-1 run to grab its first lead since early in the second quarter. Johnson and Petty combined to score all 12 points for the Blue Raiders, and Johnson’s turn-around jumper with 4:08 left gave Middle Tennessee a narrow 52-51 lead.

Petty’s two free throws rebuilt a one-point lead for the Blue Raiders with just under two minutes remaining, but WKU answered with six unanswered points, punctuated by another Tashia Brown jumper, to take a 63-58 lead. Johnson’s layup just before the end of the quarter trimmed the deficit to 63-60.

In a very tight fourth quarter, WKU’s lead slipped to as little as one point following a Sissom triple just past the halfway point that left the Lady Toppers clinging to a 71-70 advantage. WKU roared back with six unanswered points over the next four minutes, however, and never led by fewer than five points in the final minute to seal the 82-75 win.

WKU will close out its three-game road swing on Saturday afternoon at 2 p.m. with a visit to Birmingham, Ala., to face UAB. The Lady Toppers lead the all-time series against the Blazers by a 16-4 margin, including a 60-48 win in Bowling Green on Jan. 12. In that game, WKU rallied from an early 13-point deficit to top the Blazers, outscoring them 34-17 over the final 20 minutes.

How to Follow the Lady Toppers: For complete information on WKU Lady Topper Basketball, visit WKUSports.com or follow the program via social media @LadyTopperHoops on Twitter, @LadyTopperHoops on Instagram and on Facebook at facebook.com/WKUWomensBasketball.

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