Lady Raiders avenge Sun Belt championship loss

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The Lady Raiders battle against players from Arkansas-Little Rock during a Jan. 16, 2013, game at the Murphy Center in Murfreesboro, Tenn. (Photo courtesy of MTSU Athletics/B. Lambert)

The Middle Tennessee women’s basketball team had hope for payback against Arkansas-Little Rock Wednesday night after the Trojans upset the Lady Raiders by a point in overtime in the Sun Belt Conference tournament title game last March.

This was the first meeting between the two schools since then, and MTSU was looking claim back the top spot in the SBC. Well, the Lady Raiders got their revenge with a 65-56 victory on Wednesday night at the Murphy Center.

For MTSU head coach Rick Insell, he just through of the win as another one in the conference. However, the Lady Raider players said it meant much more considering what happened last March.

“I do not think it’s a statement win,” Insell said after the game. “We knew it was going to be a hard fought game. It was a conference win, and it gave them another conference loss.”

However, senior guard Kortni Jones saw tonight’s win a little bit differently.

“Honestly, as a senior I wanted to be a part of a win like this,” Jones said after the game. “It was tough loss and we had a bitter taste in our mouth, but like coach (Insell) said it was a conference win and we got to play them again. I’m very glad to get the win and keep this thing going.”

MTSU junior forward Ebony Rowe had another career high from the field with 35 points and 17 rebounds in the win. She gave credit to her teammates for getting her the ball.

“It was all assists,” Rowe said after the game. “People just see the stat line and see 35 points, but they do not see all of the great passes my teammates gave me. I really credit them, because they know what I’m going to do and they give it to me perfectly.”

In the second half, the tough Trojan defense forced the Lady Raiders into another 24-second shot clock violation with 13:24 left in the game. UALR took advantage and tied the score at 35 after a couple of free throws by freshman forward Shanity James with 13:07 remaining. After a Lady Raider turnover, the Trojans took the lead for the first time after a baseline jumper by sophomore guard Taylor Gault.

The Lady Raiders answered with a couple of free throws by Rowe to even the score at 37 with 12:23 left. Then, it went on a 16-5 run to extend the advantage to 56-44 with 6:22 left.

The Trojans could not get any closer than eight points, and the Lady Raiders hung on to make it six wins in a row.

Coming into the game, UALR led the SBC in several defensive categories, including field goal percentage defense which it was holding teams to 31.7 percent shooting from the field. Tonight, the Lady Raiders started off slow in the first half only shooting 34.5 percent from the field. However, it improved its percentage in the second half by shooting 45.8 percent to finish with a total of 39.6 percent for the game. It also outrebounded the Trojans by a wide margin 47-27.

The Lady Raiders knew it was a tough challenge scoring against the fourth-ranked defense in the nation, but they were pleased with the way it played.

“They have always been a great defensive team,” Insell said. “They take pride in their defense, and they do a great job with their half court defense.”

MTSU improves to 12-5, 7-1 on the season and remains tied for first place in the SBC Eastern Division, while UALR drops to 11-6, 4-5. The Lady Raiders stay home on Saturday against Louisiana-Lafayette as part of a doubleheader with the men’s team.

It will be the second and final meeting of the season between the two schools. MTSU won the earlier meeting, 72-45 on Nov. 24. Tip-off is set for 3 p.m. Saturday at the Murphy Center.

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Basketball, Lady Raiders, MTSU, Sports, Trojans, UALR
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