Boldyreva scores 21 and Middle Tennessee women win Conference USA, advance to NCAAs for 21st time

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (AP) — Anastasiia Boldyreva scored 21 points, including eight in the closing minutes, and Middle Tennessee defeated Liberty 67-51 on Saturday to win the Conference USA Tournament championship.

The top-seeded Lady Raiders (29-4) advance to the NCAA Tournament for the 21st time and the third time in the past four years.

Ta’Mia Scott scored 16 points, Savannah Wheeler 15 and Jalynn Gregory 11 for Middle Tennessee. Wheeler added nine assists and three steals.

Bella Smuda had 21 points and 15 rebounds for Liberty (18-16). Asia Boone scored 11 points and Emma Hess added 10.

The Lady Raiders led 42-33 after the third quarter and their lead was 51-43 near the 5-minute mark of the fourth. They put the game away with an 11-0 run that began with a 3-pointer from Scott and finished with a 3 by Boldyreva, who also added a layup and a 3-pointer in the final minute.

Liberty led 8-7 after a first quarter that saw the teams combine to make 7 of 35 shots for 20%. Middle Tennessee then outscored the Flames 19-5 over the first 8 1/2 minutes of the second quarter and went on to lead 29-17 at halftime.

Liberty has been to the NCAA Tournament 17 times.

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