LEXINGTON, Ky. - MTSU put forth one of its best efforts against its second Top 15 foe in a five-game span before the Lady Raiders came up on the short end of a 61-48 decision against No. 15 Kentucky at Memorial Coliseum Friday.
The Lady Raiders (2-4), who played No. 5 Louisville two weeks earlier, continued to show improvement against one of the nation's toughest schedules. They gave the Wildcats (7-2) all they wanted before Kentucky finally pulled away in the final minutes of the fourth quarter.
"I'm proud of my team and their effort against a good Kentucky team," MTSU Rick Insell said. "While I am proud, I am also disappointed in that we made mistakes we generally don't make and we didn't finish shots. They really hurt us on the boards. This game will make us better. Kentucky showed us some weaknesses tonight, and we will go back and work on that."
Alex Johnson and Ty Petty were quite a handful for Kentucky as they combined for 36 of the team's 48 points. Johnson finished with a season-high 19 points and Petty tallied 17 points on the strength of five 3-pointers. Petty also added six assists. Abbey Sissom finished with seven points, six rebounds and four assists.
MTSU came out strong and led most of the first half. The Lady Raiders owned an 18-15 advantage after the first quarter. Johnson's short jumper provided MTSU a 23-16 lead, its biggest lead of the first half, with 7:34 remaining in the first half.
Kentucky put together a run at the end of the first half to take a 35-31 lead into the locker room at intermission.
Second-half shooting woes hurt the Lady Raiders. MTSU shot 22 percent (5-for-23) in the second half, including 1-for-11 in the fourth quarter. The Lady Raiders were also doubled up on the boards as Kentucky won the rebounding battle, 44-22, including 18 offensive caroms.
Despite the second-half woes, MTSU battled and stayed the game and trailed by five, 42-37, following Johnson's layup with 4:03 remaining in the third stanza.
It doesn't get any easier for the Lady Raiders, who will face Arizona State Tuesday at home at 6:30 p.m.