No. 22 Middle Tennessee survives UAB scare

Luis Barrio, Staff Reporter

Despite being pre-season favorite to win the Conference and finishing the season nationally ranked with a regular season title, the Middle Tennessee State women’s basketball team still plays with a chip on its shoulder.

The Blue Raiders came in the No. 22 team in the nation and defeated a tough, upset-minded UAB 69-59.

“To be honest with you, I don’t think we’ve gotten the respect we’re due,” said Middle Tennessee head coach Rick Insell. “We’ve only lost one game in conference.”

A team this good that still plays like they have something to prove is a scary opponent for every team remaining in the tournament and UAB was their latest victim.

There were nine lead changes throughout and three ties. The first half of the contest was a see-saw match between Blue Raiders’ Ebony Rowe and the UAB’s Ashley Grimes.

The two players combined for 30 points in the first half alone.

Insell said freshman Olivia Jones is the team’s best defender and today showed how she is the team’s best perimeter defender. Insell said that he never considered taking Jones off of Grimes. She was held to only five second half points.

The Blazers shot 32 percent in the second half.

“I take very strong offense to my defense. I had to pick it up a little bit on the defensive,”  Jones said.

Jones made critical offensive rebounds late in the game that allowed the Blue Raiders to break away from a tough, stubborn Blazers team that would not go away until the very end.

Grimes finished with 21 points in the game and plenty of respect from Middle Tennessee players.

“Down the stretch we were able to execute our offense. Our defense held a very good team to 59 points,” Insell said. “They’ve done that all year and I’m very proud of them. Our seniors call on each other and they speak just about as much as I do in the huddle.”

One of those seniors is Ebony Rowe. She finished the game with 29 points and 15 rebounds. There were times when Ebony had four players around her.

“We’ve been in so many situations and were confident in each other. We believe in our system, we believe in what our coaches have planned for us and we just execute it.” Ebony said.

The Blue Raiders now sit and wait for the winner of Florida International and Tulane. The game will be Friday bright and early at 9 a.m.

Luis Barrio may be reached @Luis_Barrio17 and [email protected]