Despite 12 lead changes in the first half, Middle Tennessee (7-3) went on a 12-1 run midway through the second half to pick up their sixth consecutive victory. UCF (7-3) had cut the lead to six points with three-plus minutes remaining, but MT went 9-3 down the stretch to seal the win.
UCF was held to 35 percent shooting (18-of-51) and committed 21 turnovers that resulted in 16 MT points. Overall, the Blue Raiders finished the game 22-of-54 from the field for 40.7 percent shooting. The Raiders nailed six triples in the contest, four of which came from the hands of Stewart. MT out-rebounded the Knights 37-35 and out-scored UCF in the paint, 28-14.
Stewart, a native of Oak Ridge, matched a career-high 22, while draining 4-of-5 attempted three-pointers. Stewart finished the game with four rebounds and a career-high four assists.
For the 60th time in her career and the seventh time this season, Rowe inked a double-double with 20 points and 11 rebounds. The senior dished out three assists and grabbed a steal. Rowe reached double-figures for the 16th consecutive game. Monday’s performance was also the 103rd double-figure scoring game, which gave Rowe sole possession of second place on MT’s all-time chart.
Murfreesboro’s Shanice Cason added nine points, corralled seven rebounds and handed out five assists in the victory.
Both squads played an evenly matched first half. Middle Tennessee opened up to a 10-6 lead thanks to a pair of treys from Stewart. UCF went on an 8-0 run to take a 13-10 lead with 11:27 to play.
There were 12 lead changes in the first half, but MT used a stretch of eight consecutive Rowe points and two Cason free throws to take a 31-28 edge at the half.
MT shot 39 percent (11-of-28), while UCF made 40 percent (10-of-25) from the field. The Raiders were hot beyond the arch with 5 triples out of 13 attempts. All of Stewarts team-best 12 points in the first half came from three-point land. Rowe also added 10 points and seven rebounds in the opening frame.
UCF tied the game thanks to a Brittni Montgomery basket plus the and-one. MT went on a four-point run thanks to Rowe and Stewart, but UCF soon answered to tie the game at 39. A Leonard three-pointer gave MT a lead that it held on until it extended to a game-best eight points.
The Raiders stretched that lead to 12 points after a Stewart jumper. Sara Djassi’s layup with 3:30 remaining cut the UCF deficit to six points. MT went on a 9-3 run to close out the game and collect a sixth consecutive victory.
Middle Tennessee’s defense was relentless in the second half, holding UCF’s leading scorer Briahanna Jackson to four points in the last frame. Jackson finished the game with 16.
On Wednesday, the Raiders return to action against American Athletic Conference foe USF. Tip-off is set for 6 p.m. CT / 7 p.m. ET at the Sun Dome in Tampa, Fla.
NOTES: Middle Tennessee had a strong contingent of fans on hand including Blue Raider Baseball legend Dewon Brazelton … KeKe Stewart set a personal record with four three-pointers, besting her previous best of two set on five different occasions … The 22 points matched a career-high versus Tennessee Tech in 2010 … Stewart also set a career-high with four assists … Shanice Casonmatched a season-high with five assists … Ebony Rowe has scored double figures in 15 consecutive games … Rowe’s 103 double-digit games is second all-time … Rowe (1,940) is three points from reaching Tawayana Mucker for fourth all-time in scoring … Rowe is tied for seventh with Stephanie Capley with 107 career starts … Middle Tennessee is now 5-0 in the state of Florida this year and 16-4 under Rick Insell in the Sunshine state … MT is now 4-0 all-time against UCF … UCF lost their first home game after opening the year 5-0 at CFE Arena.