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LSU Hosts MTSU Sunday In NCAA Tournament Second-Round On ABC

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LSU Hosts MTSU Sunday In NCAA Tournament Second-Round On ABC

BATON ROUGE – No. 3 LSU will host No. 11 Middle Tennessee on Sunday at 2 p.m. CT on ABC in the second-round of the NCAA Tournament in the PMAC.

LSU will look to advance to the Sweet 16 for the second year in a row. The last time the Tigers made it to the Sweet 16 in consecutive seasons was 2007 and 2008, the final two years of a five year stretch that say LSU reach five straight Final Fours.

Dave O’Brien will call the game with Christy Thomaskutty on ABC, LSU’s first appearance on the network since last year’s NCAA Championship game. Fans can also listen to Patrick Wright and Shaeeta Williams on the LSU Sports Radio Network, 100.7 FM in Baton Rouge.

To do so, LSU will need to play better than it did Saturday in its 70-60 win over Rice. The Tigers committed a season-high 24 turnovers and had three players with at least five turnovers. That’s significantly more than the 15.7 turnovers this year’s team has committed per game. One thing LSU did do successfully on Saturday was get to the free throw line. The Tigers who get to the charity stripe as well as any team in the nation, were 22-31 from the free throw line compared to Rice’s 6-8.

“You kind of don’t talk about yesterday,” Coach Kim Mulkey said of the Rice game. “You talk about Middle Tennessee because we’ve got to focus our energy today because we won’t be on the floor tomorrow with a 2:00 game. We have to do everything today in the film room, everything on the floor. So you don’t talk about what happened yesterday. You talk about what we have to do to be successful. They’re very attentive. It’s kind of like you flush it.”

In the game, Angel Reese recorded her 13th straight double-double with 10 points and 19 rebounds. Aneesah Morrow had 15 points, 7 rebounds and 4 steals in her NCAA Tournament debut. Flau’Jae Johnson and Mikaylah Williams both scored 14. Hailey Van Lith had 7 points and Last-Tear Poa, cleared from concussion protocol, scored 9 off the bench in her first action back on the court.

MTSU trailed Louisville by as many as 18 points in the second quarter, but caught fire in the second half, making five threes in the final two quarters and went 19-27 from the free throw line to earn the comeback victory. The Blue Raiders played the same five players through the whole second half, relying heavily on its group of starters. In total, MTSU only played five players on Saturday. Savannah Wheeler, the CUSA Player of the Year, had 22 points and Jalynn Green led the team with 24 points. Both Green and Wheeler played all 40 minutes against Louisville.

“I think transition is an area that maybe we can push it and run some,” Coach Mulkey said. “They don’t have much depth. We’ve been talked about all year about not having much depth. They don’t either. So hopefully it will be a game that won’t come down to people fouling out, and we just get out there and play.”

The Blue Raiders have not lost since their final game of 2023, winning 20 straight games. MTSU won both the CUSA regular season and tournament titles this season. Along with the conference player of the year in Wheeler, MTSU also has Anastasiia Boldyreva who is the CUSA Defensive Player of the Year.  All five of MTSU’s starters were featured on the CUSA All-Conference Team. The Blue Raiders shoot the ball especially well from beyond the arc at 35-percent which ranks in the top-50 nationally. MTSU is 147-18 when making 10+ threes under coach Rick Insell.

Insell, a member of the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame, has reached 12 NCAA Tournaments in his 19 seasons leading the program. This year marks his 18th 20-win season at MTSU and he has guided the Blue Raiders to 25 wins over Power-5 teams during his time in Murfreesboro, including a win over Tennessee earlier this season. Nina Davis, a two-time AP All-America at Baylor under Coach Mulkey, is in her fourth season as an assistant coach on Insell’s staff.

“It wasn’t a surprise to me yesterday that they won,” Coach Mulkey said speaking of Insell. “He’s extremely good at what he does. His son’s on his staff. He has one of my former All-Americans on his staff. Much, much respect to Coach Insell and his family. They have treated me good through the years. They have sat with me at my son’s baseball game in Louisville when we were all working in the summer. I love the Insell family.”

“We talk about Aneesah Morrow being an undersized post player and how good she is,” Coach Mulkey said likening Morrow to Davis. “Nina was that good for me at Baylor. Nina was like a ballerina in the paint. You couldn’t block her shot. You couldn’t block her out. She figured out ways to get her shot off. While it might not have been the most beautiful shot, you couldn’t stop her.”

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