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No. 23/25 Raiders plunder Pirates' 26-game winning streak

Middle Tennessee clinches share of C-USA title

February 26, 2014 · @MTAthletics

GREENVILLE, N.C. - No. 23/25 Middle Tennessee used strong defensive pressure in the second half to will its way to a 70-59 victory over East Carolina on Wednesday. The Raiders' victory snapped ECU's 26 home game winning streak, which ranked second nationally.

The first half saw both teams battle it out on numerous runs before the Pirates hit a final shot to take a 34-33 at the break. Middle Tennessee (24-4, 13-1 Conference USA) held ECU (21-6, 9-5 C-USA) scoreless for the first six minutes in the second half, helping the Raiders take a lead they would never relinquish. The home loss was the first for ECU since falling to Charleston on Nov. 17, 2012.

Wednesday evening's victory gives the Raiders at least a share of the C-USA regular season title. A win on Saturday against UAB would help MT clinch its sixth consecutive championship.

Three Blue Raiders earned double figures with Ebony Rowe leading the way with 23 points six rebounds and five assists. Rowe's nine free throws moved her to first all-time with 520, marking her 12th career record at Middle Tennessee.

KeKe Stewart added 18 points, earning a career-best 13 of those points from the charity stripe. Shanice Cason tallied 16 points, including three triples, while pulling in eight rebounds. China Dow, Olivia Jones and Stewart all had five rebounds each.

The Blue Raiders finished 40 percent shooting (18-of-45) from the field, holding ECU to 38.3 percent shooting (23-of-60). The Pirates only hit nine field goals in the second half for 29 percent. Middle Tennessee narrowly won the rebound column, 41-40, while forcing 18 Pirate turnovers. The Raiders earned 50 trips to the free throw line, which was second most in game for the Raiders, hitting 30 times.

A four minute drought in the first half hurt Middle Tennessee, as the Pirates stretched their lead to 21-10 with 10:25 remaining. The Raiders then went on an 18-2 run. Six of those points came from China Dow later in the run as MT took a 28-23 lead. East Carolina used an 11-5 scoring stretch down the half to take a 34-33 edge into the locker room.

MT shot 42.3 percent (11-of-26) from the field, while the Pirates were 48.3 percent (14-of-29) in the opening stanza. MT won the rebound column, 19-17, yet had committed 11 first half turnovers. Rowe led all scorers with 14 points.

The Blue Raiders opened the second half on a seven point spurt to take a 40-34 edge. ECU's basket by Jada Payne at 14:30 snapped a nearly six-minute scoring drought to start the second half. MT stretched its edge to 10.

Despite going three-plus minutes without a field goal, the Raiders earned 36 trips to the free throw line in the second half to salt away a potential ECU comeback. A pair of free throws by Rowe stretched MT's lead to 15 with two minutes remaining.

With Wednesday's victory, the Blue Raiders clinched a share of the Conference USA regular season title. MT hosts UAB in a 3 p.m. showdown on Saturday for Senior Day and Blue Pride Saturday. Fans can purchase a $10 ticket that will give them admission to the baseball game and both basketball contests.

NOTES

Ebony Rowe became the sole leader at with her 125th start on Wednesday ... Rowe's nine free throws moved her to first all-time with 520 career free throws ... KeKe Stewart hit a personal best 13 free throws ... Middle Tennessee's 50 free throw attempts were tied for the second most ever in a game. It tied the 1995 game against UT Martin ... MT is now 1-0 against East Carolina ... The Blue Raiders are 24-0 when leading with five minutes remaining.

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