MURFREESBORO, Tenn. -- The MTSU women’s basketball team finished out the final home game of 2013 with its eighth consecutive win on the season with 59-44 win over South Dakota State on Saturday at the Murphy Center.
It was matchup between two of the top mid-major programs in the country, and both teams last game before the Christmas break.
“I think just playing team basketball,” MTSU forward Ebony Rowe said after the game about the winning streak. “We are a very dangerous team, because any given night anybody can step up. That makes the team dangerous, when you can stop one or two people that are contributing. We have a full team of girls that come in here and work so hard every day.”
During the first half, it was a back and forth affair between the two teams. The Lady Raiders struggled from long distance in the first 20 minutes of the game only hitting 3-of-16 for 18.8 percent. However, MTSU senior forward Ebony Rowe picked up the slack with 17 points during the same time period.
Late in the opening stanza, the Lady Raiders went on an 11-2 run to end the half, which included a three-pointer by Lady Raider freshman guard and former Riverdale star Ty Petty with 19 seconds remaining to give it a 36-27 advantage at the half.
“We are an inside out team,” MTSU freshman forward and former Riverdale star Olivia Jones said. “(MTSU head coach Rick) Insell told us to keep attacking and get it to Rowe. We know once they collapsed on her, the perimeter would be open. We were attacking to see what was going to happen on our side.”
Coming into the game, the Jackrabbits were led by junior guard/forward Megan Waytashek, who was averaging a team high 13.2 points per game. However, in the first half she ran into foul trouble early on and had to spend most of the half on the bench. Waytashek only had five points during the first half and that how she finished the game.
“Most of the time when we face really hard opponents the coaches said attack them, get them in foul trouble and put them on the bench,” Rowe said. “I think we did a great job of attacking her and getting her in foul trouble.”
In the second half, the Lady Raiders expanded the advantage to 12, 39-27 after a three-pointer by senior center KeKe Stewart two seconds into the last 20 minutes. SDSU was able to cut the advantage down to five, 40-35 early in the second half. However, the Lady Raiders defense held the Lady Jackrabbits scoreless for over eight minutes, while it increased the lead to 55-38.
During the month of December, the Lady Raiders had been shutting down its opponents on defense. It had been holding teams to only 47.2 points per game. Today was no different as it held the Lady Jackrabbit offense to only 44 points.
“In practice we really focus on defense,” Jones said. “That is pretty much our whole practice is defense, and we know we are smaller than most teams. Defense is what we really have to focus on like rebounding and the little stuff, because we got to physical and smart.”
Rowe finished the game with a season best 29 points and 13 rebounds as she was doubled and tripled team during the entire game. Former Riverdale star and freshman forward Olivia Jones added six points and 14 rebounds. The Lady Raiders are now 9-3 on the season and head to Clemson on Dec. 29 for a 1 p.m. tipoff.