Middle Tennessee Lady Raiders
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REGION: East SEED: 13
COACH: Stephany Smith CONFERENCE: C-USA
Road to the Final Four ...................................................................................
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The 5-foot-9 junior guard was named Sun Belt tournament Most Outstanding Player for the second year in a row after averaging 21 points in three games last week. In addition to leading the Lady Raiders in scoring and rebounding, Holmes, Middle Tennessee's leading scorer in 16 of 30 games, also has hit a team-high 52 3-pointers and shoots 45 percent from the field. But while she has dished out 121 assists, her stat line shows 114 turnovers, too.
ANALYSIS BY ESPN'S STACEY DALES-SCHUMAN
With a heavy 79-57 triumph over Western Kentucky in the Sun Belt tournament championship, the Lady Raiders head into NCAA Tournament madness after a six-year hiatus. Coach Stephany Smith has to be thrilled with the season's outcome thus far since her team won its first conference tournament title and earned at least 20 wins for the first time since the 1995-96 season.
Led by three athletic scorers in Patrice Holmes, Krystle Horton and Tia Stovall, the fast Lady Raiders clearly like to score near the rim -- they attempt just 12 3-pointers per outing and shoot only 28 percent from beyond the arc.
Holmes, a junior do-everything guard who stands at just 5 feet 9, accounts for 15.8 points, 6.1 rebounds, 5.5 assists, and a defensive prowess that sets the tone for her club. Her only downfall: almost four turnovers per game.
The team's duster on the boards is 6-2 forward Krystle Horton, who contributes 15 points and 5.8 caroms.
Middle Tennessee turns the ball over plenty, but the Lady Raiders produce a balanced rebounding attack and generate a nifty 11 steals each game while forcing rivals into 20 turnovers. Do we need to point out that Middle Tennessee plays fast basketball? Still, the Lady Raiders must do a better job protecting the ball and work to reduce their usual 18.5 turnovers.
Middle Tennessee has competed in relatively close nonconference games this season that should aid the Lady Raiders in their NCAA Tournament preparation. They defeated Xavier early, lost to Georgia by just 15 points and challenged an excellent Houston team before falling by four points. Closing the conference season on a big-time winning note should also be of help.