MURFREESBORO, Tenn. – Middle Tennessee had 10 players score, as the Blue Raiders played suffocating defense in front of a raucous crowd of 10,028 on the Murfreesboro City School’s Education Day en route to a 68-32 win over Kennesaw State on Thursday at Murphy Center. Thursday’s crowd was the fourth largest in program history.
Middle Tennessee (6-3) trailed by three early and then used a 12 point run to win their fifth consecutive game. The Raiders caused Kennesaw State (1-7) to commit 34 turnovers, as the Owls became the first team since Louisiana on Nov. 24, 2012 to commit 30-plus mistakes. KSU’s 32 points was the lowest for a Blue Raider opponent under Rick Insell, besting a previous mark of 35 against Houston (2005) and FIU (2009).
Senior Ebony Rowe‘s game-leading 16 points moved her past Chrissy Givens to move into fifth on the all-time scoring list at Middle Tennessee. She collected four rebounds and two blocks in a season-low 27 minutes. Rowe now has 1,923 points for her Blue Raider career and is 23 points away from reaching fourth place held by Tawayna Mucker.
Lewisburg native Lauren March had season-highs in points (8) and rebounds (7) for MT, while junior Shanice Cason and freshman Olivia Jones each added eight points. Sophomore Mackenzie Sells matched her career-high with six points in the victory, while Janiece Johnson added a season-best six points.
After Kennesaw State opened the contest with four of the game’s first five points, Middle Tennessee went on a 12-0 run, holding the Owls scoreless for a span of 6:34. Kennesaw State would cut the deficit to 15-8 with 9:51 to play in the opening stanza before the Blue Raiders ran off another dominant stretch of play, outscoring the Owls 13-2 over 6:54 to establish a 28-10 cushion.
The Blue Raiders would lead 34-12 at the half, the largest halftime lead for MT since Feb. 28, 2013, when the Raiders took a 46-21 advantage into the locker room at Troy. Rowe led all scorers in the first half with 12 points, while Cason added eight and March chipped in six.
Kennesaw State made the first basket of the second half before Middle Tennessee rattled off a 22-1 run, holding the Owls without a made field goal for a stretch of 11:04. The Blue Raiders would see their lead balloon to as much as 40, as a layup by Johnson extended the advantage to 56-16 with 7:54 to play.
The Blue Raiders shot 48.1 percent for the game, as opposed to 25.7 percent for the Owls. MT outrebounded Kennesaw State, 34-to-26, and dished out 15 assists while the Owls had five. The Raiders tallied 11 steals in the game, the most since MT came up with 12 vs. Southeast Louisiana on Nov. 29.
The Blue Raiders return to action on Monday, Dec. 16 for the first of two games in the Sunshine State, facing UCF at 6:00 CST.
Thursday’s attendance of 10,028 was the fourth-largest in program history … The Blue Raiders’ average attendance of 8,692 ranks third nationally … For the first time in school history, Middle Tennessee has reached 10,000 or more fans in multiple games during one season … The 36-point margin of victory matches the best for the Blue Raiders since MT defeated Arkansas State by 44 points (93-49) on Feb. 6, 2013 … Freshman Shy Copney scored her first points as a Blue Raider in the contest with a three-pointer in the second half.
Middle Tennessee Head Coach Rick Insell
On today’s game…
I think our team played well today. We got what we wanted to from the bench, a game like this is tough sometimes. I got to see some of our younger players and I was very satisfied with that. And we didn’t get anyone hurt. So those are the biggest positives of the day.
On the defense…
I think they were averaging 66 points a game and they have played some pretty good competition. We felt like coming in we needed to trap them a little bit and we were able to do that. In a game like this you get caught playing the scoreboard and I don’t think we did today, I was really happy with that. We executed our offense and tried to do some things offensively. Early on we didn’t hit that many threes but we finally got into a grove and made some towards the end which is what we’re all about.
On the crowd today…
It’s a win win. Some of those young people in the crowd today came to their first Division 1 game and they’ll be asking their parents to come back. Maybe they liked what they saw at Middle Tennessee, maybe they liked what they saw today about the game of basketball and who knows where they might lead. There may be a young lady up there that may be the next Pat Summit, or a young man who’ll be the next Geno Auriemma, you never know.
Senior Forward Ebony Rowe
On today’s game…
It was really fun today but coach kept stressing to not get caught up in it and play our game. But how can you not get into the game when all the kids are there and having so much fun? And then after the game we got to interact with several of them, and that’s the best part. These kids really look up to us and it’s great to be able to give back to them.
On today’s events trying to grow the women’s game…
It helps grow the game a lot. I think a lot of women get cheated. We’ve been blessed to play in front of an amazing fan base. It’s probably one of the best in women’s basketball in the country. But when we go to some other places they’re still trying to get there support up so the more we can get these kids to our games and get them excited about women’s basketball, they’re going to want to come and bring their families and that’ll just grow the women’s game a lot.
Senior Forward Lauren March
On today’s game…
I think everyone played well today, I was really proud of everyone’s play. We talked about how they were averaging 20 turnovers a game so we knew we really needed pressure the ball and be aggressive with them to make them play fast and be uncomfortable.