MTSU women overcome slow start to whip FAU 81-66

MTSU sophomore guard Taylor Sutton goes up for a shot against FAU on THursday night. MTSU ATHLETIC COMMUNICTIONS

A slow start offensively couldn't hold MTSU's women down on their  home floor Thursday night.

The Lady Raiders (11-6, 3-2) continued their dominance over Conference USA foe Florida Atlantic (8-8, 2-3) with an 81-66 win. They've now beaten the Owls 19 straight times and lead the all-time series 25-1, the lone loss coming during the 2008-09 season.

"I knew coming in that FAU had one of the best teams that I've seen them have in many years, maybe one of the best team they've ever had down there," MTSU Coach Rick Insell said. "They have a very, very good basketball team, and they'll be a difference maker in this conference by the time it's all said and done."

A tight lid on the basket refused to help out the blue and white in the first half.

MTSU only hit 23.5 percent of its shots (8-of-34) from the floor and two of its 19 3-point attempts in the first 20 minutes, but thanks to some good pressure defense, trailed by just a single point, 27-26, at the halftime break.

FAU went into the game worst in the league averaging 21 turnovers per game, and Insell's team took advantage. The Lady Raiders forced 15 turnovers, eight of them steals, in the first half, helping to erase the bad shooting start. The Owls finished with 24 turnovers.

"(The rough start) never did faze us," Insell said. "Don't worry about it, just shoot the basketball."

Once the second half started, the lid slid off the basket for MTSU and shots finally began to fall.

Led by sophomore Taylor Sutton, the Lady Raiders went on a stretch over the third and fourth quarters where they made 12-of-24 attempts and eventually led by as many as 17. Sutton, who made only one of her first five shots from the floor, scored 14 of her 18 points after halftime. She hit four shots from distance.

"We just encouraged each other at halftime," she said. "The second half came, and we knew we just had to put the ball into the hole."

With her team struggling in the first half, freshman Courtney Whitson stepped up and hit some big-time buckets. She then did the same to end her career night.

MTSU missed 14 of its first 18 shots, including its first nine 3-pointers, before Whitson gave them a spark in the second quarter. She scored eight points, including two makes from distance, then followed with a big fourth quarter, draining three more treys and putting in 11 more points. Her 19 points were a career high, as were her five made triples

"It was just kind of a mindset," she said. "I've been trying to get in the gym and get some confidence back. "My teammates just find me. There's nothing I do to take credit. They help me, and getting in the right spot really helps."

Also filling the stat sheet for MTSU was sophomore Anastasia Hayes with 19 points, seven rebounds and five assists. She made seven shots, including a 3-pointer. Her sister, freshman Aislynn Hayes, shook off a bad shooting night and scored 14 points.

Senior Charity Savage had seven points, five assists and 13 rebounds, her 13th double-digit rebounding game of the season and eighth with 13 or more.

MTSU plays host to FIU on Saturday at 5 p.m.

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