Women’s basketball: Lady Owls drop fourth straight game in 70-67 loss to Middle Tennessee

Zack Kelberman

Forward Chenise Miller swings for the ball during the tip off at the start of Saturday's game against Middle Tennessee. Photo by Ryan Murphy.
Forward Chenise Miller swings for the ball during the tip off at the start of Saturday’s game against Middle Tennessee. Photo by Ryan Murphy.
For the better part of 38 minutes, it appeared that the Lady Owls were going to snap their three-game losing drought.

The last two minutes, however, ultimately proved otherwise.

FAU dropped its fourth consecutive contest in a 70-67 loss to Sun Belt Conference leader Middle Tennessee at The Burrow on Saturday.

Clinging onto a 65-64 lead with 1:56 to go in regulation, Middle Tennessee’s Icelyn Elie put in an easy lay-up to give the Blue Raiders a 66-65 advantage they wouldn’t relinquish.

It was a painful defeat, but not the worst in recent memory.

“No, those [painful losses] were the ones that had no pride attached to them,” FAU coach Kellie Lewis-Jay said. “Like the ones that happened last week.”

FAU had three players — guard Kimberly Smith, guard Takia Brooks, and forward Chenise Miller — finish in double-digits, but it was all for naught.

Guard Breana Turner attempts for three. The Owls lost to Middle Tennessee 70-67. Photo by Ryan Murphy.
Guard Breana Turner attempts for three. The Owls lost to Middle Tennessee 70-67. Photo by Ryan Murphy.
Smith led the team with 18 points (including four 3-pointers) in a game-high 38 minutes, and also had five rebounds and four assists. Brooks, playing feisty with noticeable energy, had 17 points (on 6-13 shooting) and six rebounds. Miller, the Owls’ leading scorer, totaled 13 points.

Despite Brooks’ impressive afternoon, she committed a crucial technical foul late in the game, a call she was none too pleased with.

“We never get calls,” Brooks said angrily. “You just have to roll with the punches.”

Her coach would prefer for her to keep her cool.

“[Takia] showed a little more emotion than she probably should,” Lewis-Jay said. “Whether she agreed with the call or not, she needs to stay a little more composed.”

FAU went to the half ahead 39-34, shooting a solid 51 percent from the field.

But the second half was the team’s downfall.

Guard Takia Brooks reacts to sinking her basket during the first half. Photo by Ryan Murphy.
Guard Takia Brooks reacts to sinking her basket during the first half. Photo by Ryan Murphy.
“They hit some key shots,” Lewis-Jay said, reflecting on what went wrong down the stretch. “You take a gamble when you play a team like that. Unfortunately for us, some of those players stepped up and hit shots and executed.”

The Owls finished with a 43 percent mark from the field (25-58) and 45 percent from beyond the arc, which are respectable numbers.

FAU, though, turned the ball over a game-high 14 times, were worked in the paint (accounting for 30 of Middle Tennessee’s points), and never got a consistent contribution from their bench.

Although the Owls now sit below .500 at 10-11, and appear to be on a downward spiral, Lewis-Jay remains confident in a turnaround.

“We’ll keep fighting, keep playing hard,” Lewis-Jay said. “I didn’t have to coach effort — that wasn’t an issue. We just have to continue to move forward, continue to grow, and keep everything in perspective.”

The Lady Owls play at FIU on Wednesday, Feb. 6 at 6 p.m.