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Trio lift No. 21/25 Raiders to victory over Rice

Rowe, Leonard and Warden reach double figures

February 8, 2014 · @MTAthletics

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. - Ebony Rowe tallied a double-double and Caroline Warden provided a spark as No. 21/25 Middle Tennessee defeated Rice 65-54 for MT's eighth-straight win at the Murphy Center on Saturday.

Rowe tallied her 19th double-double of the year and 72nd of her career with a 12 point, 12 rebound performance. Warden added 10 points and a career-high five assists in her first start this season. Freshman Olivia Jones grabbed 12 rebounds for seventh double figure rebounding game. Seniors' Laken Leonard posted 13 points, while KeKe Stewart contributed with nine.

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Women's Basketball vs. Rice
Warden tallied the first five points of the game for the Blue Raiders (19-4, 8-1 C-USA), who trailed 8-7 just after the game's first media timeout. MT would answer with a 7-0 run, in the process claiming a lead it would not relinquish the rest of the way.

Rice (10-12, 3-6 C-USA) would pull to within 18-16 before MT rattled off another run, an 8-0 stretch that held the Owls off the board for 5:52. In all, the Blue Raiders would outscore the Owls 10-2 over the final 8:06 of the half.

MT outshot Rice 45.8 percent from the field to 23.3 in the opening 20 minutes. The Owls edged the Raiders 19-18 on the boards in the first half. Rowe led all scorers with eight first-half points.

The two teams played fairly evenly through the first eight minutes of the second half. The tide would turn with help from Warden, who tallied a pair of steals to spark a 9-0 run that opened up a 49-28 lead with 9:41 to play.

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Rice would go on a 13-2 run to cut it to 51-41 with just over five minutes to play before freshman Ty Petty drilled a straightaway three to bring the lead back to 13 with 4:58 to go. The Owls would not go quietly, bringing the deficit to within nine at the game's final media timeout. The Blue Raiders would close the game out at the free-throw line for the 11-point victory.

For the game, the Blue Raiders shot 37.9 percent (22-of-58), as opposed to 33.9 (20-of-59) for the Owls. MT won the rebounding battle, 45-38. Rice had three players in double-figures. Jessica Kuster led the team with 15 points.

The Blue Raiders had 4,209 fans in attendance for the school's annual Play 4Kay Power of Pink. MT raised $10,500 in the postgame jersey auction. All of the proceeds will benefit the Kay Yow Cancer Fund and the Saint Thomas Rutherford Power of Pink cancer fund.

The Blue Raiders return to action on Wednesday, Feb. 12 for a game at FIU in Miami, Fla., with the opening tip slated for 5 p.m. CT.

NOTES

Sophomore Caroline Warden made her first start of the season ... Warden's five assists were a career-high best her previous of four against Troy last season ... MT held the Owls to their lowest first half point total this season ... Ebony Rowe's scored 12 points and grabbed 12 rebounds for her 19th double-double this season and the 72nd of her career ... Olivia Jones had her seventh double-figure rebound game with 12 boards ... Middle Tennessee had 4,209 in attendance for its annual Play 4Kay Power of Pink games ... The Blue Raiders wore pink uniforms in honor of cancer awareness ... The Blue Raiders are now 73-3 in conference action at Murphy Center under Rick Insell ... The Blue Raiders' pink uniforms were auctioned off for a total $10,550. Those jerseys proceeds were split between the Kay Yow Cancer Fund and the Saint Thomas Rutherford Power of Pink cancer fund.

QUOTES

Head Coach Rick Insell

Opening Statement:

We shot the ball the first half decent, 45%, then 32% the second half...we knew Rice was going to be a good game. What you have to get out of your system is all that where you're thinking 'what did we do wrong.' We just grinded out a big victory here tonight. We played a lot of people, and I saw some positive in every one of them...I was really satisfied. There's some things we have to tinker with to become a better basketball team and that's what we're doing in practice right now.

On Play 4Kay:

It's very special. I knew Kay Yow, she was an acquaintance. When I first got hired she was one of the first ones when I was out on the recruiting trail that came over and put her arm around me and said 'you're going to be alright.' I didn't know what I was doing to be honest with you. I was in the business at that time over thirty years but I didn't know what I was doing. Another one that came over and put her arm around me and gave me some credibility was Pat Summit. So you got two legends of the game that said 'Hey, you're going to do ok.' That's what I remember about Kay Yow...She was a great lady and just a really personable friend with everybody. I don't know that she had any enemies to be honest with you. You don't find many people like that.

Senior Forward Ebony Rowe

On the win:

We knew (Rice) was a really competitive team and they had a lot of competitive players. (Jessica) Kuster, number 30, she's a great player and we knew she would keep her team motivated and keep them in it. So we weren't really expecting a blowout. We were expecting that every time we got them down they would keep fighting, which they did.

On the team's play:

It was a team effort. Our team basketball and team defense is what's been carrying us all year. We had a minor setback last game, but we were confident we would come together and play as a team this game, which we did.

Caroline Warden

On her first start this season:

It felt great for coach to have the confidence in me, it just motivated me to help my team and do better. (I want) to just get better every game.

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