TAMPA, Fla. – Middle Tennessee staved off a late USF comeback to defeat the Bulls 68-62 in the Sun Dome on Wednesday for the Raiders’ seventh consecutive victory.
MT (8-3) led by as many as nine before USF (5-5) cut the deficit to two with seven minutes remaining. KeKe Stewart‘s triple lifted the Raiders advantage back to five. USF’s Tamara Taylor nailed a trey with 12 seconds left to make it a 64-62 game. The Raiders used four made free throws down the stretch to collect the win.
Ebony Rowe scored a game-best 25 points, while corralling 11 rebounds. Rowe’s 25 moved her to fourth all-time in scoring with 1,968. The Naismith/Wade Watch List candidate reached her eighth double-double this year and 61st in her career.
Stewart finished the game with 18 points and three rebounds. Again, she matched her career-high with four three-pointers. Olivia Jones netted nine points, a season-high six steals and dished out two assists against the Bulls.Laken Leonard added solid depth off the bench, scoring eight points in 13 minutes. Shanice Cason chimed in with six and handed out three assists.
Statistically, the Blue Raiders finished the game shooting 43.8 percent (21-of-48), with eight makes from three-point range. USF’s 17 turnovers resulted in 21 Middle Tennessee points. USF won the rebound battle, 42-to-29.
The Bulls opened the game by scoring 10 points inside the paint to take a 16-10 lead midway through the opening half. The Bulls extended their edge to seven before the Blue Raiders answered on a 9-2 run. Rowe’s triple tied the game at 19-19.
Leonard’s driving layup tied the game at 25. MT followed up with free throws from Jones and Rowe to finish the half with a 28-27 lead. MT shot 38.5 percent (10-of-26) from the field, with four triples. USF was held to 37.9 percent (11-of-29), but controlled the rebound column 24-to-16.
In the second half, MT stretched its lead to 33-29 before USF used back-to-back triples from Inga Orekhova and Taylor to take a 35-33 lead. Taylor finished the game with 22 points for the Bulls.
Rowe’s layup at 10:30 gave the Blue Raiders a 43-42 lead. Middle Tennessee built a six-point lead thanks to a triple from Stewart. The Raiders’ edge to nine thanks to a Rowe layup. Tamara Taylor’s three-pointer with 12 seconds to go cut MT’s lead to 64-62. The Raiders hit four free throws down the stretch to take the 68-62 victory.
On Saturday, the Blue Raiders return to host the formidable South Dakota State Jackrabbits. Tip-off is set for 1 p.m. CT inside the Murphy Center. Saturday’s game will be televised locally on MyTV 30.
Ebony Rowe moved into fourth all-time scoring with 1,968, passing Tawyana Mucker (1,946) … MT is now 3-1 all-time against USF … The Raiders have won seven straight …. MT is now 6-0 in the state of Florida … KeKe Stewart matched a career-high four triples … Olivia Jones had a season-best six steals.
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