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MTSU women make Sweet 16 of WNIT

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After three days of attitude adjustment, the MTSU Lady Raiders advanced to the Sweet 16 of the Women's NIT on Sunday with a hard-fought 73-66 win over Wake Forest at Murphy Center.

That seven-point win over the 16-16 Demon Deacons left MTSU coach Rick Insell in better spirits than Thursday's nine-point opening round victory over Morehead State.

"I think they were more embarrassed than I was. That's not us," Insell said of Thursday's game. "Today we came out and played with some pride."

Lady Raiders Ty Petty and Alex Johnson scored 28 each. Johnson became the highest-scoring sophomore in program history with 1,078 points. She passed Ebony Rowe, who scored 1,069 points in 2010-11 and 2011-12, then went on to become the program's all-time leading scorer.

It was MTSU forward Gabby Lyon battling for an offensive rebound late in the fourth that helped seal the win.

"We just showed a little more heart and determination. AJ and Ty played well and our other players filled their roles," Insell said. "Right now we're very happy as a team. ... We came back in and went to work Friday and Saturday and really got after it, much like preseason to be honest, and I think you saw us play a different game out here tonight."

Petty said Insell "tested us" in practices after Thursday's sluggish start.

"Practice after that game wasn't pretty," Petty said. "That wasn't Lady Raider basketball. I don't think any of us want to go home yet. Today showed what we are really all about. We gave great energy, we gave great effort for 40 minutes."

The Lady Raiders improved to 23-10 and will now travel to play Georgia Tech at 6 p.m. Thursday.

The first-ever meeting between Wake Forest of the ACC and MTSU of C-USA was physical and featured a lot of bodies on the floor, two referee-reviewed fouls, three tied scores and four lead changes.

A key series came when Wake Forest took a 40-39 lead at 7:38 in the third quarter on a three-point play by Amber Campbell. Petty answered with a three-point basket to regain the lead for the Lady Raiders, 42-40.

But Ariel Stephenson -- leading scorer for the Deacs with 23 -- hit a 3-pointer of her own to keep her team ahead briefly at 43-42. The fourth quarter started with MTSU up by four, 52-48.

With one minute to go in the game, and her Lady Raider team still holding a fragile four-point lead, 67-63, Lyon battled several Demon Deacon players for an offensive rebound that restarted the shot clock.

Petty then dribbled off some time, was fouled and hit two free throws to extend the lead to 69-63 and help MTSU hang on. Petty was 12-for-12 from the free-throw line.

"She's our most hard-nosed player," Insell said of Lyon. "We challenged her in that timeout and said 'it's going to come down to you going and getting the ball' and she did."

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