Lady Raiders Roll Over FIU

MURFREESBORO - Four starters tallied double-figure points, led by career highs from Jackie Pickel and Tina Stewart, and Brandi Brown joined the 1,000-point club, as the Middle Tennessee women's basketball team earned a 90-58 victory Wednesday night over FIU inside the Murphy Center.

Pickel, who just 10 days ago set a new career high with 27 points against Louisiana, topped the 30-point plateau for the first time with a game-best 34 points on 13-of-20 field goals, including 6-of-10 from behind the 3-point arc. Her six triples give her 205 in her career, becoming only the fourth player in school history to exceed 200 career 3-pointers. They move her within one of third-place Kristi Brown on the all-time list. Pickel also added five steals and five rebounds in 39 minutes.

Stewart garnered her second career start and responded with a career-high 12 points on 5-of-9 from the floor. She tied for second on the team with four steals, among 19 the Blue Raiders swiped overall.

However, the highlight of the night came at 4:05 of the first half when Brown hit a turnaround jumper in the lane for her 1,000th career point. She becomes the 22nd member of the elite club at Middle Tennessee (10-5, 5-1 Sun Belt) and the second Blue Raider to reach the milestone this season, joining Alysha Clark. Brown finished with 10 points and five rebounds, hitting one-half of her 10 field goal attempts.

Clark, who earlier in the day was tabbed as a Midseason Wooden Award candidate, contributed with her ninth double-double of the season, 26th as a Blue Raider and 64th overall in her career. She finished with 22 points and a game-best 13 rebounds, including eight on the offensive glass. The All-American also added a game-high six assists and converted 5-of-6 free throws to move into 15th place on the school's all-time scoring chart with 1,242 points.

Michelle Gonzalez led the Golden Panthers with 21 points, tallying a team-best three 3-pointers, while Marquita Adley chipped in 10 points. Adley matched Elisa Carey for team-high honors with eight boards.

After the game started slow through the early stages, with FIU (7-11, 2-5 Sun Belt) jumping out to a 10-5 lead with 12:43 to play following a Fanni Hutlassa triple, Pickel answered with her first 3-pointer to start a 9-0 run. The spurt also included another trey from Pickel and one by Chelsia Lymon, to give MT the lead for good, 14-10, with 10:08 left.

Over the course of the next four minutes, the Blue Raiders increased their margin to 13, 29-16, following Pickel's only trip to the foul line. Consecutive layups from Clark and Brown pushed the edge to 17, 35-18, just two minutes later. The Golden Panthers would trim the deficit back to 13 twice in the final two minutes; however, Dymon Raynor intercepted a pass and Pickel drained a 3-pointer just before the half ended to send Middle Tennessee into the break ahead, 46-30.

The Blue Raider momentum carried over to the second half, as the lead swelled to 27 on a Brown layup with 12:40 remaining for a 66-39 cushion. Back-to-back 3-pointers from Pickel halfway through the stanza were part of an 8-0 run, which saw Middle Tennessee increase the gap to 33, 79-46, with 10:01 left.

The Blue Raiders were holding the Golden Panthers without a field goal during the three-minute stretch until Carey ended the drought with a jumper at 7:52 to pull the visitors within 32, 81-49. The lead never dipped below 28 the rest of the way, while Stewart's jumper with 1:59 gave MT its largest advantage at 35, 90-55, before FIU recorded the final three points of the contest.

Middle Tennessee scored a season-high 49 points off turnovers, forcing 31 Golden Panther miscues.

The Blue Raiders will return to action at 2 p.m. Saturday when they play host to Florida Atlantic inside the Murphy Center.