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Blue Raiders reverse course to clinch division share in win over Lady Toppers

MT wins sixth straight over WKU

February 9, 2011 · Athletic Communications

BOWLING GREEN, Ky. - It was a tale of two halves Wednesday night, as Middle Tennessee turned a three-point halftime deficit into a six-point, 72-66, victory at Western Kentucky in Sun Belt women's basketball action inside E.A. Diddle Arena in Bowling Green, Ky. The win clinches at least a share of the East Division for the Blue Raiders and extends their streak to eight-straight seasons with at least 20 triumphs and six in a row in the series.

After trailing at the intermission, Middle Tennessee (20-5, 11-1 Sun Belt) turned to freshman Ebony Rowe its first half dozen points to regain the lead, 40-39, with 17:19 left. Keisha Mosley answered to give the Lady Toppers a one-point edge, but it would be the last WKU lead of the contest with 17:05 to play.

Rowe continued to be the focus of the Blue Raider offense during the second 20 minutes, netting 18 of her 21 points after the break. She added 13 rebounds, including nine defensively, for her 13th double-double to go along with three blocked shots in just under 40 minutes. The three-time Sun Belt Player of the Week converted 7-of-9 field goals and 7-of-10 free throws to help secure the comeback.

Senior Anne Marie Lanning also was vital to the win, contributing a game-high 25 points, including 7-of-9 charity tosses. Numerous times Lanning tallied timely buckets, usually nearing the end of a shot clock situation, and added more to stem any tide Western Kentucky seemed to mount. She also added seven assists.

Arnika Brown paced the Lady Toppers with a double-double of her own with 16 points and 14 rebounds. Amy McNear matched her offensively, tying for team-high scoring honors with 16 points.

McNear forced the game's fifth tie at 44-44 but Western Kentucky then went cold as Middle Tennessee warmed up and went on a 9-0 run over a four-minute span to break open the close game. The Lady Toppers missed six shots during the stretch, as freshman Jordyn Luffman capped the surge with a fast-break 3-pointer on an outlet pass from sophomore Kortni Jones at 10:55.

Hope Brown finally ended the drought but five more consecutive Blue Raider points pushed the advantage to a dozen, 58-46, at the 9:07 mark. Three free throws, including a set from LaTeira Owens, and a jumper from McNear trimmed the gap back to seven, 58-51, just two minutes later.

Rowe then converted an old-fashioned three-point play to make it a double-digit difference once again at 61-51 with 6:53 to go. Her free throw at the end of the possession was the first of 12 straight for Middle Tennessee to end the game, as it did not make another field goal.

Meanwhile, Western Kentucky would make it as close as five a couple times down the stretch, the last on an Owens jumper with 1:23 to play. After MT intentionally took a shot clock violation with four seconds left, McNear buried a long 3-pointer with .04 seconds remaining to decide the final margin.

The two teams traded baskets back and forth throughout the first eight minutes with the Blue Raiders holding a slim 19-16 lead at the second media timeout, at 11:43. Four consecutive three-point situations, including a pair of old-fashioned plays, provided the edge for Middle Tennessee. After those plays, Jones and Luffman each drained 3-pointers as the Lady Toppers kept it close by sinking six-straight free throws.

After a Mosley jumper cut the deficit to one, Luffman used a baseline move to push it back to three and then a Rowe free throw made it a four-point difference, 22-18, with 10:53 left. The two teams continued to alternate points and after Lanning hit a jumper at 8:56, Arnika Brown hit a pair of layups for Western Kentucky (10-14, 7-5 Sun Belt), to begin a 6-0 run and give the Lady Toppers the lead once again.

Lanning halted the surge, but again WKU scored twice more before the Blue Raiders could add another bucket, maintaining the two-point edge. The senior's second triple of the half, at 3:09, cut the Lady Topper lead to one, 34-33, but Hope Brown countered with a trey of her own a minute later to give Western Kentucky a 37-34 halftime advantage.

Middle Tennessee returns to action at 7 p.m. Saturday when it plays host to FIU inside the Murphy Center for the annual WBCA Pink Zone game. The Blue Raiders will wear special pink uniforms and the athletic department will hold its annual jersey auction at the conclusion of the contest.

The Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC) is sponsoring a Diaper Drive Saturday and asking fans to bring diapers, baby hygiene products and baby food among other necessary items.

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