Women’s Basketball: Second half rally not enough as Owls lose 65-69 against Middle Tennessee

Ra’Kyra Gabriel injured in Owls’ third straight loss


FAU women’s basketball head coach Jim Jabir talks next tactics with his players during a media timeout in his team’s 79-67 win over Lynn University on Nov. 4. Alexander Rodriguez | Staff Photographer

Wajih AlBaroudi, Contributing Writer

After falling behind by as much as 16 points, FAU women’s basketball stormed back to within four in a 65-69 losing effort against Middle Tennessee.

The Owls (10-10, 4-5 C-USA) fell to the Blue Raiders (14-9, 6-4 C-USA) in heartbreaking fashion, as Junior forward Ra’Kyra Gabriel was injured during FAU’s second half comeback attempt.

The arena fell silent late in the fourth quarter as FAU coach Jim Jabir and the training staff hurried to the court to tend to Gabriel after she went down with an apparent back injury. Teammates surrounded Gabriel before she was eventually taken off the court on a stretcher.

A three-pointer from graduate student DaChe’ Williams and a layup off an inbounds pass by redshirt junior guard Danneal Ford with under two minutes remaining cut the Blue Raider’s lead to 62-58 with less than a minute to go.

A Gabriel putback after a three offensive rebound possession brought the crowd off their feet and cut MT’s lead to only seven, 45-38. Williams then hit a corner three to bring FAU within four.

Senior guard/forward Sasha Cedeno sparked a third quarter comeback effort by draining a three On the next offensive possession, she then span into the lane to finish at the rim and cut FAU’s deficit to 11, 43-32.

MTSU ranks 13th in the nation in scoring defense and brought that same effort in Thursday’s game, holding FAU to 38 percent shooting.

On paper FAU had the advantage in rebounding, as the Owls led CUSA in rebounding offense at 43.7 and MTSU ranked last at 33.7; but the Blue Raiders fought hard on the boards, staying even with FAU in that department, with 33 each.

FAU had a chance to jump into the five-way conference tie at 5-4 but the loss kept the Owls at ninth.

MTSU’s win over FAU gave the Blue Raiders a 22-1 all-time lead in head-to-head contests.

Williams knocked down a three-pointer as time expired but it wasn’t enough in the loss.

The Blue Raiders defense held FAU to 1-of-9 shooting start in the first quarter before back-to-back buckets by Gabriel and senior guard Malia Kency. MTSU put heavy pressure on FAU’s ball handlers, getting hands in passing lanes while forcing four early turnovers and disrupting the Owls’ offensive flow.

MTSU went on a 15-0 scoring run in a four-minute span stretching from the end of the first quarter to the beginning of the second, giving it a 22-8 lead.

FAU had more turnovers (seven) than field goals made in the first half, with only six makes on 22 attempts.  

FAU left the perimeter open to double MTSU on its post touches and the Blue Raiders took advantage by nailing 46 percent of their 26 attempted threes.

FAU was sloppy with the basketball in the first half, giving up multiple unforced turnovers on errant passes. FAU finished with 11 turnovers.

The Owls’ offense came primarily from the free throw line in the first half, with a third of their 20 points coming from the stripe.

A buzzer-beating MT three-pointer gave the Blue Raiders a 33-20 halftime lead over FAU.

After a 0-of-4 shooting start in the first half,  senior forward Melinda Myers found her rhythm with four straight makes.

Coming into Thursday’s contest, FAU lost its last two games against WKU and UAB by an average of 26 points.

FAU plays its second of a two-game homestand against North Texas on Saturday Feb. 10, with tip off set for 7:00 p.m.

Wajih AlBaroudi is a contributing writer for the University Press. For information regarding this or other stories, email [email protected] or tweet @WajihAlBaroudi.