MURFREESBORO- Middle Tennessee (5-5, 1-0) won its 25th consecutive Sun Belt Conference game defeating Florida International 77-64 on Wednesday.
BlueRaiderZone.com Player of the Game Jackie Pickel nailed 4 long treys, all in the second half, to hold off the Golden Panthers (3-7, 0-1). "Triple" Pickel tallied 12 points in just 17 minutes of action. She also garnered 2 rebounds, 1 assist, and a steal.
FIU jumped out to an early 7-5 advantage, but the Lady Raiders held firm to lead 36-28 at the half, largely due to the offensive output of "Downtown" Brandi Brown and Duluth's (GA) Amber Holt. MTSU went on a 10-point run at the end of the first half and beginning of the second half to take a 42-28 lead.
"MT extended that margin to 19 points (53-34) on a Holt jumper at the 14:23 mark of the second half. The Lady Panthers could get no closer than 11 at 63-52 with 6 minutes remaining in the contest.
"It's about time I had a good shooting night," said Pickel, a sophomore from Cleveland's (TN) Bradley High School. "Coach Insell really doesn't get onto us when we miss a shot."
"It wasn't pretty," said MTSU head coach Rick Insell. "I'm not satisfied with our rebounding, our hustle and our defense. Rebounding, free throws, and defense win championships and we didn't do 2-of-the-3 well tonight".
Holt led all scorers with 18 points, amassing a double/double for the 3rd time in the last 4 outings. Holt added 11 rebounds, 5 assists, and 5 steals.
"We have to get the ball to Amber and she has to finish for us," said Insell. "She stays in the national spotlight and keeps our team in the national spotlight."
Brown connected on 3 trifectas and registered 14 points, while Anne Marie Lanning scored 9 points to go along with 6 rebounds. LaToya Barclay and Johnna Abney each had 7 points, and Emily Queen recorded 6 points. Chelsia Lymon and Star Orr rounded out the attack with 2 points each.
LaQuetta Ferguson led 4 Lady Panthers in double digits with 15 points and 12 boards. Iva Ciglar had 12, Fanni Hutlassa 11, and Monica Bosilj 10.
"FIU is a good team that plays European-style basketball," said Pickel. "That's a lot different than Tennessee basketball," she joked.
The Lady Raiders board the bus this Friday to travel to Mobile, Alabama, to take on upstart South Alabama. The Lady Jaguars are 10-1 overall and 1-0 in the SBC after a victory over Troy on Wednesday. Tip-off is set of 5:00 PM on Saturday, December 22.
Lady Raider play-by-play announcer Dick Palmer will start his pre-game broadcast at 4:30 PM on FM 89.5 WMOT. The Middle Tennessee vs. South Alabama men's game will follow the women's contest.
"South Alabama is going to be a real tough game for us," said Pickel. "We just can't let our highs get too high and our lows get too low."