The MTSU women’s basketball team returned to its winning ways after defeating Rice 65-54 on Saturday afternoon at the Murphy Center. The game was also a special one for the program as it honored that battling breast cancer as part of the Play4Kay event. The Lady Raiders won pink jerseys during the game in memory of the ones who have dealt with cancer.
After the game, all of the game wore pink jerseys were auctioned off along with some other items, and the program raised 10,550 dollars to benefit the Play4Kay and the Saint Thomas Rutherford Power of Pink foundations.
“It meant so much,” MTSU senior forward Ebony Rowe said after the win. “I had my grandmother standing right beside me during the starting lineup, and she is a breast cancer survivor and one of the strongest women I know. It is near and dear to my heart, and I through the attitude was great tonight, and I was glad to do that for them.”
The Lady Raiders were coming off a 68-56 loss at Southern Miss on Feb. 5. The loss snapped MTSU 17-game winning streak, so the team was glad to get back on track with the win today.
“We knew they were a real competitive team,” Rowe said. “We knew (Jessica) Kuster was a great player and she was going to keep her team motivated and in it. We really were not expecting a blowout.”
It was also a matchup between two of the top stars in Conference USA, MTSU senior forward Ebony Rowe and Rice senior forward Jessica Kuster. Both players came in as the only two players in the nation averaging a double double per game. Rowe was averaging 21.8 points per game and 11.8 rebounds per game, while Kuster was averaging 20.4 and 13.8 herself.
Kuster outscored Rowe 15 to 12, but Rowe is the type of player who does not care about her final stats. She was just glad the Lady Raiders won.
Early on, Rice cut the lead down to two, 18-16 after a basket by freshman guard Maya Hawkins. However, after the made bucket MTSU head coach Rick Insell called time out and it must have worked, because the Lady Raiders went on a 8-0 run after it to take a 28-18 advantage at the half.
In the second half, the Lady Raiders extended the advantage to 21, 49-28 after a three-pointer by freshman forward and former Riverdale star Olivia Jones. However, Rice hung around and cut the lead down to nine, 55-46 with 3:04 left in the game after a long distance shot by sophomore forward Megan Palmer. After a made free throw by senior guard Laken Leonard, the Owls cut it down to eight, 56-48 after a jumper by junior forward Christal Porter.
However, the Blue Raiders took it to double digits for good after a put back senior center KeKe Stewart and a couple of made free throws by Leonard. Rice made one last ditch effort to cut it to nine, 63-54 after a three-point play by Porter. However, Leonard and Stewart each added a free throw to end the scoring.
With the win, MTSU improves to 19-4, 8-1 in C-USA, while Rice drops to 10-12, 3-6 on the season. Next week, the Lady Raiders head down to the Sunshine State for a couple of key C-USA games. On Feb. 12, MTSU travels to FIU at 5 p.m. and three days later it heads to Florida Atlantic for an 11 am tipoff on Fox Sports Net.