MURFREESBORO, Tenn. – The Western Kentucky women’s basketball team turned a 16-point, first-half deficit into a one-possession game in the second half Sunday, but Middle Tennessee got a career-high 28 points for Kortni Jones and pulled away for a 79-57 win at the Murphy Center.
Jones, a senior guard, netted nine free throws, recorded five steals and hit three second-half 3-pointers as MTSU (15-5, 10-1 Sun Belt Conference) logged its 11th straight win over WKU.
The Lady Toppers (15-5, 8-3), who haven’t won in Murfreesboro since 2004, suffered their first back-to-back losses since the end of the 2011-12 regular season.
MTSU senior forward Icelyn Elie added 22 points and eight rebonds, while junior forward Ebony Rowe had 13 points and 12 rebounds for her 45th career double-double.
Sophomore guard Alexis Govan paced WKU with 26 points, while sophomore forward Chastity Gooch recorded her nation-leading 17th double-double this season with 20 points and 14 rebounds.
WKU hosts Troy at 7 p.m. Wednesday.
Here are comments from WKU’s Michelle Clark-Heard, Alexis Govan and Chastity Gooch, along with MTSU’s Rick Insell, Kortni Jones and Icelyn Elie:
MICHELLE CLARK-HEARD, coach
MTSU’s second-half run: “I was proud of our kids. We came out in the second half, and we fought. We put ourselves in a position where we were in the game. The problem became that they shoot the 3 well. Kortni Jones got her wide-open shot, and after that, she got on a roll.”
Cutting deficit to three: “We were right there in the ball game. To have that opportunity, we’ve got to continue to do the things we need to get better and close out a game like that.”
Jones’ 3-pointers: “That was a huge back-breaker. I’ve watched Kortni for years, and I knew her even when I was at the University of Louisville. She’s a big-time player. Big-time players step up and make big shots, and that’s what she did.”
Players beyond Gooch and Govan: “The problem was that we had those two show up, and we didn’t have anyone else show up. … Two people are not going to be able to carry you.”
“I’m not going to say everybody’s going to get 15 points, but we have to have role players. We need everyone to add to what we’re trying to do.”
ALEXIS GOVAN, sophomore guard
MTSU’s second-half run: “We just needed to sit down and guard. We didn’t guard the 3-point line very well after we made that run. We sort of let up on defense, and we weren’t able to fight back after that.”
On Kortni Jones: “She can flat-out shoot the ball. Us as a team, we have to be more aware of it. The coaches stressed it to us, and I don’t think we took it as seriously as we should have.”
Pressure with others not stepping up? “I don’t think we feel pressure. We know our teammates have our backs. We have a lot of good players that are going to show up at big times, but it just so happened that tonight it wasn’t anyone’s night.”
CHASTITY GOOCH, sophomore forward
Rebounding: “Coach told us that they were a really good rebounding team. We knew that we had to box out and get rebounds, and we tried, but it just didn’t happen.”
RICK INSELL, MTSU coach
“Western gave us two or three shots, but we were able to get ourselves under control and push the game back out. We executed our offense, hit our free throws – did everything we need to do.”
On Kortni Jones: “She gave us the leadership on the perimeter we needed today. … We she comes to play, she’s pretty tough. She ran our basketball team.”
On WKU: “They’re going to be a team you’re going to have to contend with because they’ve got two great scorers in Gooch and Govan. If you’ve got two scorers and personnel around them, they’ve got a good basketball team. … They’re going to be in the mix.”
KORTNI JONES, MTSU guard
“Coach Insell always says 3-pointers are back-breakers, especially when they’re kind of on a run and getting a little hope, and you knock a few 3s down.”
“Western’s a really good team, and they play hard for 40 minutes. The run didn’t really surprise us, but it was just a matter of getting our focus back on defense. Offense is going to come.”
Pride of having not lost to WKU: “I actually got a text from Alysha Clark this morning, and it said, ‘We haven’t lost to Western at home, so it better not start today.’ When you get a text from someone as good as her, and knowing I played with her and how hyped and serious they were about beating Western Kentucky, you know your focus better be there, or you’re going to hear it from every single player that’s come before you.”
ICELYN ELIE, MTSU forward
Playing better recently: “I don’t think we had very much confidence then. We’ve pulled together and played as a team, and I think that’s the thing that’s pushed us along the way.”