The Lady Raiders took on the most challenging stint of their 2017–18 schedule in the month of December with a slate that included four Power 5 opponents.
Middle responded to a narrow defeat at Georgia Tech with a dominant 69–39 victory over Coppin State at home.
After the game, coach Rick Insell prophetically stated, “You keep messing around with the snake, and you’ll get bit. Somebody is fixing to get bit with this little bunch, because they’re pretty good.”
However, when the Lady Raiders traveled to Louisville, it was the Cardinals who did all the biting. Coach Insell suffered the worst loss of his collegiate coaching career in a 80–26 drubbing. This contest also marked the last game for Alex Johnson for the month. The Preseason C-USA Player of the Year has struggled to come back from the ankle injury she suffered in the season opener against Vanderbilt.
With Johnson out, the Lady Raiders had to find a new offensive spark, and they got it in a group effort against Troy. Five players scored in double figures, with Abbey Sissom leading the way with 18 points. Most impressive was the defensive effort. Troy came into the game leading the nation in scoring at 94 points per game. The Lady Raider defense held them to 57.
Unfortunately, the balanced scoring didn’t carry over into their next two games. Not a single player scored more than nine points in a 18-point loss to Tulane. In a 15-point loss to Southern California, only Sissom and Jess Louro scored in double figures, notching 22 and 11 respectively. However, the loss to the Trojans seemed to be a turning point in Abbey Sissom’s season.
Though Sissom was renowned as a scorer in high school, that’s not what Coach Insell has needed from her over the last two season. With Brea Edwards, Ty Petty and Alex Johnson there to put the ball in the basket, Sissom had been asked to take a more defensive approach in her role. With Edwards long gone and Petty having graduated last year, Coach Insell knew Sissom would need to return to her scoring ways to relieve some of the burden off Alex Johnson. With Johnson on the mend, someone needed to step up and assume the scoring role, and that is just what the senior from Woodbury has done.
After her 22-point performance in the loss to the Trojans, Sissom dropped a career-high 28 points on Canisius, including five successful three-point attempts. She then dropped 22 points on Kentucky in a thrilling come-from-behind victory at Murphy Center.
The Kentucky game marked the first time in Sissom’s career that she rallied 20 or more points in three consecutive games. It also helped to prove Insell’s prophetic statement true, as the snake finally bit the Wildcats.
The Lady Raiders will enter conference play with a 8–5 record. They will start their C-USA schedule on the road against rival WKU on Jan. 4. They will then return home on Jan. 6 to host UAB. Other upcoming contests in Murfreesboro for MTSU include North Texas on Jan. 18, Southern Mississippi on Jan. 20, Charlotte on Jan. 28 and Louisiana Tech on Feb. 1.