Published On: Wed, Jan 25th, 2023

FAU Women’s Basketball primed for battle at No. 23 Middle Tennessee

The Florida Atlantic women’s basketball team hits the road again this week for a ranked matchup against the No. 23-ranked Middle Tennessee Lady Raiders on Thursday, Jan. 26 inside the Murphy Center. Tipoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. ET and the game will air live on ESPN+.

The Owls (11-7, 4-5 C-USA) are just coming off their first overtime contest of the season, which saw the Owls fall just short against the UTEP Miners, 79-78. The Owls are in their second season under head coach Jennifer Sullivan, who has led the Owls to a 16-32 record over her two-year career in Boca Raton.

The Owls are paced by Aniya Hubbard, who is averaging a team-best 13.8 points per game. Hubbard ranks third in C-USA in field goal percentage, shooting 46 percent from the field. Hubbard ranks second in the league in steals and steals per game, pacing the Owls with 44 total steals and averaging 2.44 per contest this season. Janeta Rozentale and Alexa Zaph round out the Owls top three scorers, averaging 8.9 points per contest each this season. Rozentale leads FAU on the glass, averaging 6.1 rebounds per game, as well as registering a team-best 0.8 blocks per contest this season.

As a team, the Owls lead Conference USA in 3-point percentage defense (.281), second in rebounding margin (4.7), and rebounds per game (40.5), third in defensive rebounds per game (26.9) and fewest fouls per game (17.2), fourth in scoring defense (63.5), winning percentage (.611), steals per game (8.4), and field goal percentage defense (.397), and fifth in offensive rebounds per game (13.6), turnovers forced per game (17.6), free throw attempts per game (20.7), and free throws made per game (13.9).

Freshman standout Aniya Hubbard continues to impress through her first season with Florida Atlantic, earning C-USA Freshman of the Week accolades for the third time this season on Monday. This past week, Hubbard helped lead the Owls to their largest margin of victory against a C-USA opponent in the Coach Sullivan era, as well as posting her fourth 20-plus point performance of the season and earning her first career double-double.

Hubbard helped catapult the Owls to an impressive 15-point victory against UTSA, 81-66, marking the largest margin of victory for the Owls under head coach Jennifer Sullivan, as well as posting her first career double-double in the Owls tight 79-78 overtime defeat against the UTEP Miners. Hubbard opened the week scoring five points and collecting five steals and three rebounds against WKU. She then posted her fourth 20-plus point performance of the season, leading the Owls with 21 points, shooting 42 percent (5-of-12) from the field and 75 percent (9-of-12) from the free throw line, while tacking on five steals, four rebounds, and an assist in FAU’s win over UTSA. Hubbard then capped off the week with her first career double-double, scoring 15 points and pulling down 10 rebounds, while also dishing out two assists and snagging a steal in the Owls’ overtime loss to UTEP.

Middle Tennessee (16-2, 9-0) enters Thursday’s contest on a 14-game winning streak that dates all the way back to Nov. 25 when MT fell 72-67 against the Texas Tech Lady Raiders. Middle Tennessee is in its 18th season under head coach Rick Insell. Coach Insell has accumulated a 421-148 career record with the Lady Raiders and only two seasons in which Middle Tennessee finished with less than 20 wins, one of which was the COVID-shortened 2020-21 season.
 
Three Lady Raiders are averaging double figures, led by Kseniya Malashka, Savannah Wheeler, and Jalynn Gregory. Malashka is averaging a team-best 16.2 points per game, followed closely by Wheeler with 16.1 points per game, while Gregory is scoring 13.1 points per game this season. Gregory leads the Lady Raiders in steals, averaging 1.8 per contest. Courtney Blakely is Middle Tennessee’s assists leader, dishing out a team-best 3.1 assists per game. Defensively, the Lady Raiders are paced by Courtney Whitson, who has collected a team-leading 8.2 rebounds per game, while Malashka is Middle Tennessee’s block leader with 1.9 blocks per game in 2022-23.
 
As a team, Middle Tennessee leads the conference in 12 statistical categories, including winning percentage (.889), assist/turnover ratio (1.17), blocks per game (4.3), field goal percentage defense (.351), free throw attempts per game (22.0), free throw percentage (.790), free throws made per game (17.4), scoring defense (55.4), scoring margin (19.7), scoring offense (75.2), turnover margin (5.9), and turnovers per game (11.8).

Middle Tennessee leads the all-time series against FAU, 28-1, with the Lady Raiders winning the last 22 meetings between the two programs. In Murfreesboro, the Lady Raiders hold a 15-0 record over FAU. FAU’s sole win over Middle Tennessee came on Feb. 21, 2009, which saw FAU earn a 73-70 win over Middle Tennessee in Boca Raton. Middle Tennessee won the last meeting between the two programs, claiming a 60-56 win on Jan. 13, 2022 in Boca Raton last season.

FAU remains on the road as the Owls head up to Bowling Green, Kentucky for a rematch against the WKU Lady Toppers on Saturday, Jan. 28. Tipoff is set for 3 p.m. ET inside E.A. Diddle Arena.

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