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Second half shooting propels Raiders past FIU

Middle Tennessee earns 11th consecutive 20-win season

February 12, 2014 · @MTAthletics

MIAMI - Middle Tennessee shot over 50 percent in the second half to collect a 65-58 win over FIU on Wednesday evening inside U.S. Century Bank Arena.

There were 14 lead changes in the game until Middle Tennessee (20-4, 9-1 Conference USA) took charge with 15 minutes remaining. Despite trailing 25-24 at half, the Raiders stretched their lead to as many as nine late in the stanza. FIU (11-12, 5-5 C-USA) cut the deficit to one, 51-50, with 5:06 left. The Raiders hit nine free throws down the stretch to collect the program's 11th consecutive 20-win season.

All-America candidate Ebony Rowe paced the Raiders with 23 points and 12 rebounds for her 20th double-double this season. The senior went 10-of-17 from the field, matching a season-high five assists, while collecting two steals. Olivia Jones shot 50 percent en route to 12 points. Guard Shanice Cason added 10 points and four assists, while center KeKe Stewart collected nine points, a career-high five assists and four second half rebounds.

MT knocked down 12-of-22 field goal attempts in the second half for 54.5 percent. For the game, Middle Tennessee made 22-of-48 from the field for 45.8 percent. The Raiders buried 6 treys and made 15-of-21 free throws for 71 percent. FIU was held to 32.8 percent shooting (21-of-64), despite outrebounding MT 44-30. The Raiders dominated the paint, 30-16. Additionally, the stout MT defense scored 19 points off 12 FIU turnovers.

Middle Tennessee opened Wednesday's contest to a 17-12 advantage with 9:22 remaining. However, a four minute scoreless skid allowed FIU to catapult on a 12-2 run to take a 24-19 lead at the 3:41 mark.

The Panthers used dominating rebounds, pulling in 26 compare to MT's 13. Eight of those came from the hands of Jerica Coley and Arielle Durant. Coley led all scorers with 12 at the break. MT's leader was the ever-steady Rowe with 12 points and seven boards.

First half shooting tiled in MT's favor as the Raiders connected on 38.5 percent (10-of-26) compared to FIU's 32.3 percent (10-of-31). The point off turnovers battle went to the Raiders' favor, 11-7.

In the second half, there were five lead changes in the first five minutes. Back-to-back treys from Leonard and Jones gave MT a 34-32 lead with 15:12 remaining.

Jones got a scoop-and-score to give the Raiders a five-point edge with 13-plus minutes remaining. FIU once again cut the lead to one until Cason found an open look, giving MT a 42-38 advantage. Rowe's basket underneath gave MT its largest edge of six, 44-38, at 11:58.

Coley's trey with 5:06 left made it a 51-50 ballgame with 5:06 remaining. Layups from Rowe and Jones coupled with nine consecutive free throws sealed the Blue Raiders' 20th victory of the season. FIU's Coley finished the game with 29 points and 12 rebounds.

Middle Tennessee is now a perfect 7- 0 in the Sunshine State. The Blue Raiders take on Florida Atlantic in an 11 a.m. showdown on Sunday. The game will be televised on SportSouth/Fox Sports Net. Check local listings for correct channel.

NOTES

Ebony Rowe moved into sole possession for ninth all-time with 121 game appearances ... Ebony Rowe moved into fourth place with 1,583 field goal attempts ... The Blue Raiders are 43-8 when Rowe scores 20-plus points ... Middle Tennessee is 7-0 in Florida this season ... KeKe Stewart notched a career-high five assists on Wednesday, while Rowe matched a season-high five assists.

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