MURFREESBORO, Tenn. -- MTSU began its journey Wednesday in the Conference USA with its 11th consecutive win on the season over former Sun Belt Conference foe North Texas 86-42 at the Murphy Center.
“It was a great way to start the conference,” MTSU head coach Rick Insell said. “We are proud of our basketball team and proud of our program. We knew this was a history making game for us. 50 years down the road, if we are still in C-USA and it is still around then we won the first game.”
The Lady Raiders jumped out to an early lead and never looked back with their victory over the Mean Green.
MTSU led early 11-9 with 12:53 left in the opening half, and then it went on a 16-0 run during the next five minutes to extend the advantage to 27-9 after a basket by the C-USA Player of the Week, senior forward Ebony Rowe.
During the run, the Lady Raiders got 3-pointers by Rowe, sophomore guard Caroline Warden and two from senior center KeKe Stewart. The UNT defense left Stewart open from behind the arc, and she made them pay by hitting five of them from long distance during the opening half.
The start of the second half was a carbon copy of the first one, as the Lady Raiders went on an 11-0 to expand the advantage to 53-22.
The Mean Green defense keep leaving the 3-point line open, and the Lady Raiders continued to drain the threes. Stewart finished the game hitting 11 threes by far a career best, and broke the C-USA and school record for most threes in a game for a career high total of 35 points.
“One of the reasons we played Stewart is she has tremendous IQ, very unselfish and she is a great three point shooter,” Insell said. “She is as good as a three point shooter that I have had.”
Stewart added, “They sat back in the paint and let me shoot, then Insell is going to have a field day with that and so am I.”
As for the defense, it was another dominating night as the Lady Raiders held UNT to 26 percent shooting from the field.
Coming into the game, UNT junior guard Janis Peterson had been averaging 19.2 points per game during the last five contests. Tonight, the Lady Raiders held her to only two points, thanks in part to the defense by freshman forward and former Riverdale star Olivia Jones. She finished the game with a career high 21 points in the win.
“Insell really emphasized that we were picked to win Conference USA, and he said we have big targets on our back,” Jones said. “So, we just came out with the mentally to go hard and prove a point.”
Rowe also made history tonight as she finished the game with 14 points. It was her 108th game in double figures, which tied her with Kim Webb for the most in school history.
With the win, the Lady Raiders make it 11 in a row and improve to 12-3 on the season. MTSU heads to Louisiana Tech on Saturday, Jan. 11, for a 5 p.m. tipoff.