The MTSU women’s basketball team survives 48-46 against Conference USA rival Charlotte as it came from behind to win its fifth straight game Saturday afternoon of the season at the Murphy Center. During the first half, the Lady Raiders shot a season low 24 percent and only scored 17 points. However, it turned it around in the second half.
“Those are the type of games you need to win if you are going to win a championship,” MTSU head coach Rick Insell said after the win. “We did not play the best, but we won a big game. I am very proud of our girls.”
MTSU took the lead for good when junior guard and former Siegel star Shanice Cason nailed a free throw with five minutes left in the game to give it a 42-41 advantage. MTSU senior forward Ebony Rowe and senior center KeKe Stewart also hit big shots late in the game to keep the Lady Raiders ahead for good.
The Lady Raiders received several big offensive rebounds and it made a huge defensive stop with 9 seconds left to get its 23nd win of the season.
“Nothing was said during that timeout with 9 seconds left,” Cason said after the win. “We just said we are going to switch every screen and just communicating. We have been working on communicating and that is what we did. We said we got to get a stop, and that is what we did.”
During the first half, MTSU senior forward Ebony Rowe was held scoreless, and the 49ers went on a 10-0 run to take a 23-17 advantage at the half. It was led during the stretch by Charlotte senior guard Ny Hammonds who scored four points during the run.
At halftime, the Lady Raiders were upset with its performance, but it decided to turn it around during the last 20 minutes of the game.
“He did not say anything really,” Cason said. “We were just mad at ourselves, and we know we are not that type of team. So, it was up to us to come out and make a change and that is what we did. When we started to do that everything started to fall into place.”
In the second half, Charlotte extended the lead to 31-21 after a basket by junior guard Ayanna Holmes with 15:49. However, the Lady Raiders made a furious comeback to cut the advantage down to one, 33-32 with 11:42 in the game after jumper by Cason.
The 49ers had an answer each time the Lady Raiders tried to make a run in the second half. Hammonds nailed another jumper with 8:16 left in the game to put it back ahead by five, 39-34.
The Lady Raiders tied it at 41 with 5:25 left after a made free throw by freshman forward and former Riverdale star Olivia Jones. On the next possession, the MTSU defense caused a Charlotte turnover and Cason dived on the loose ball to get the timeout.
Coming into the game, the Lady Raiders knew the 49ers were going to be a tough opponent. Even though, it was 12-12 and 6-5 in the C-USA, Charlotte had played in postseason play 11 consecutive years. Last season, the 49ers made it to the Sweet 16 of the WNIT.
The Lady Raiders were led by Rowe, who finished with 12 points, all in the second half. Cason added 11 and Stewart had 10. Hammonds led Charlotte with 12 points in the loss.
MTSU improves to 23-4, 12-1, while Charlotte drops to 12-13, 6-6. The Lady Raiders next game is at East Carolina on Feb. 26 at 6 p.m. Senior Day at the Murphy Center will be March 1 at 3 p.m. versus UAB.