Add enough pressure on coal and you will make a diamond. On Thursday January 14th, in the Convocation Center, Middle Tennessee (MTSU) pressured a young UTSA women’s basketball team and received a win.
UTSA (6-9, 1-2 C-USA) came into Thursday’s match with confidence after their three-point victory against North Texas and it showed during the first half. The first quarter was a close affair with UTSA only down four points heading into the second quarter against the co-leader of the C-USA standings. Marie Benson, junior standout, led the team in scoring through two quarters with eight as UTSA found themselves in a 34-25 deficit.
MTSU’s half court pressure began to squeeze the fight out of the Roadrunners in the second half, and Alex Johnson, the Blue Raiders pre-season all-American, took advantage as she tallied a game-high of 17 points and seven rebounds. The inexperienced Roadrunners back court felt the effects of Middle Tennessee’s defense and turned the ball over 19 times which led to 11 points for the Blue Raiders.
UTSA head coach, Kristen Holt, reflected this sentiment after the final buzzer. “I’ll give them some credit because I thought their defense was so good, and they were really pressuring our passing lanes,” said Holt.
“I love what we were doing defensively, but we just weren’t getting anything on the offensive end, and it kind of got us deflated.”
Despite the Blue Raiders suffocating defense, the Roadrunners showed grit on the defensive end by forcing 16 turnovers of their own and kept them within touching distance of Middle Tennessee. After, a tough first half, junior Forward Tija Hawkins lit up the scoreboard with an eight-point third quarter, brought UTSA within single digits of Middle Tennessee and gave the Roadrunners hope going into the fourth quarter.
Middle Tennessee displayed resolved and weathered a UTSA run and put together one of their own that would ultimately seal the victory. The Roadrunners were held scoreless for the first three minutes of the fourth quarter and were outscored 20-9, which led to a 72-52 loss at home. Coach Holt lamented their shot selection during the second half: “I didn’t think it (the shot selection) was great,” Holt said.
“At times we were rushed and we did not know what else to do, so we put up a quick shot. But I think that’s a part of being composed, playing together and we didn’t do a great job of that.”
One of the major factors that led to UTSA’s defeat was three-point shooting. The Roadrunners shot a measly 3-9 from behind the arch while MTSU made 7-18 shots and provided themselves a large cushion in the fourth quarter. UTSA forced five of its nine three-pointers in the fourth quarter and only shot 1-5 in the last period.
Marie Benson continued her peak form by totaling 14 points and 13 rebounds. Karrington Donald and Hawkins each scored in double figures and they were the only three to do so for the roadrunners. Middle Tennessee’s big three of Johnson, Taylor Sutton and Anna Jones all scored in double figures with Sutton and Jones scoring 13 each and Jordan Majors contributed a massive 14 points from of the bench.
Coach Holt’s second season as head coach of the Roadrunners has not gone as expected as UTSA dropped another game on Saturday to UAB which forces their record down to 6-11 and 1-4 in conference play.