MURFREESBORO, Tenn. – Ebony Roweclaimed another double-double and matched her season-high 29 points on her way to helping Middle Tennessee win its eighth straight game with a 59-44 victory over South Dakota State Saturday afternoon inside the Murphy Center.
Both teams swapped jabs early before the Blue Raiders (9-3) used an 11-2 run to close out the half. South Dakota State (9-5) finished the contest shooting 34 percent (16-of-47) from the field, while MT was held to 31.6 percent (18-of-57). MT won the rebound battle, 43-to-34, while forcing 27 SDSU turnovers.
Rowe reached double-figures for the 18th consecutive game with 29 points, while corralling 13 rebounds. With 14:42 in the first half she hit the first free throw of a one-and-one to move into third all-time in scoring, and finished the game with 1,997 career points. Rowe has nine double-doubles this season and 62 in her career. Freshman Olivia Jones corralled a season-best 14 rebounds, while garnering three steals and three assists. KeKe Stewart chipped in with nine points and China Dow added five points in the victory.
After a back-and forth contest that saw five ties through the first 16-plus minutes, the Blue Raiders used an 11-2 spurt to close out the remaining three minutes. Rowe connected on two back-to-back layups and scored four of her 17 first half points to start the run. Next time down the floor, Stewart hit a pair from the charity stripe to give the Raiders a 31-25 lead.
After a SDSU basket, Laken Leonard went 2-of-2 from the charity stripe and made the lead six once more. The next possession down the floor Leonard found an open Ty Petty at the top of the arc, and Petty calmly nailed the three, riling up the Murphy Center.
The Raiders went into the locker room holding the 36-27 advantage but fellow 2013 NCAA Tournament participant, South Dakota State, did not go away quietly. The Jackrabbits opened the second stanza on a 7-3 run.
MT scored the next five points to push the lead back to 10 and SDSU pushed to narrow the lead once more. Behind layups by Kerri Young and Mariah Clarin, the Jackrabbits nibbled the lead back down to six.
Middle Tennessee went on an 11 point run that took the clock down to six-plus minutes and provided the Raiders with a 17-point cushion. Each side traded free-throws down the stretch, as MT closed the game with the 15-point victory.
SDSU had one player reach double-digits; guard Steph Paluch, who finished with 10 points on 4-of-6 shooting. Clarin tallied eight points with seven rebounds but was bogged down with foul trouble late.
Middle Tennessee will close out the 2013 slate with a visit to ACC foe Clemson on Sunday Dec. 29 at 1 p.m. CT.
Ebony Rowe moved into third in all-time scoring (1,997), passing Jamie Thomatis (1,971) … Rowe has scored double-figures in 18 consecutive games and 20-plus points in her last three (20 at UCF Dec. 16 and 25 at USF Dec. 18) … MT is now 4-4 against South Dakota State … The Raiders have won eight consecutive games …Olivia Jones reached a career-high 14 rebounds … MT is now 38-7 when Ebony Rowe scores 20 or more points … Rowe moved to second all-time with her 11 made field goals … Her total of 784 moved past Tawayna Mucker (780) … Rowe moved into a tie for sixth all-time with 109 career starts.
Middle Tennessee Head Coach Rick Insell
South Dakota State has a good team. They’ve proved they’ve got a good team. They’ve been going everywhere, all over the country and playing with people. They beat Penn State when they were ranked number 10 in the country. They went into Green Bay. At that time Green Bay was ranked. They still have a tough schedule ahead just like us. They have a very good basketball team. They’re picked to win their conference and you’ll probably see them in the NCAA tournament. It was an NCAA type game today.
On the halftime lead:
It was big for us to be up at halftime. It put a little pressure on them, they had to do some things they didn’t like doing. They had to change their offense a little bit.
On MT’s non-conference success:
Not many teams could have done what we’ve done. I don’t know many teams, maybe a Connecticut, maybe a Tennessee. I don’t know who else could have done what we did this week. Going into two hostile gyms, good programs, good teams in Central Florida, South Florida, and now come back and play a team that’s going to be ranked in the top 30 before the year is over with. To win three games, that’s tough. That’s really tough. I’m proud of this team.
Senior Forward Ebony Rowe
On the win:
It was a really huge game. They’re always a really tough opponent for us every year, even before I got here. They’re a top 50 ranked team so we knew that this would be a huge win for us, especially on this last stretch. We talked at the beginning of this week that we wanted to win three tough games.
On different players stepping up each night:
We are a very dangerous team because on any given night anybody can step up. Whether it’s scoring, whether it’s rebounds, or just being the defensive stop we need. Down in Florida, KeKe (Stewart) stepped up and had two huge games. I think that makes the team dangerous. We have a full team of girls that come in here and work so hard every day.
Freshman Forward Olivia Jones
On the team’s defensive effort:
In practice we really focus on defense a lot. We know that we’re smaller than most teams and defense is what we really have to focus on, like rebounding and the little stuff. We can’t out jump most teams so we have to be physical and smart.