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No. 22 Raiders down Tulane for Insell's 1,000th win

Rowe paced MT with 24 points and 14 rebounds

March 5, 2014 · @MTAthletics

NEW ORLEANS, La. - No. 22 Middle Tennessee's balanced attack helped the Blue Raiders to a 64-52 win over Tulane on Wednesday, giving Head Coach Rick Insell his 1,000th career victory.

Early in the contest, Tulane (20-9, 11-5 C-USA) opened up to a five point lead. However, a 13-2 Blue Raider run midway in the first helped Middle Tennessee (26-4, 15-1 Conference USA) to its eighth straight win. MT now shifts focus to the Conference USA Championship in El Paso, Texas. The Raiders' first game will be in the quarterfinal round next Thursday, March 13.

Wednesday's victory gave Insell his 1,000th career win, which includes 775 triumphs that he accrued at Shelbyville Central (TN) from 1978 to 2005. As MT's all-time winningest coach, he has posted 225 victories in nine seasons.

Ebony Rowe paced the Raiders with her 23rd double-double of the year, scoring 24 points and 14 rebounds. Rowe dished out three assists and picked up two steals in 40 minutes of work. KeKe Stewart earned her fifth straight double-figure night with 10 points, while grabbing six rebounds. Sophomore guard Caroline Warden earned double-digit scoring with 11 points.

Danielle Blagg' first to buckets gave the Green Wave a four-point advantage to start the game. Tulane stretched their lead to five with 12 minutes remaining. From there, the Raiders rallied back with a 13-2 run. Warden added nine of those 13 points, including draining a trey to give MT the 11-10 edge in the game.

The Blue Raiders stretched the lead to 10 at the 2:14 mark after Stewart drained one of her two three-pointers. MT took a 36-28 advantage over Tulane into the locker room.

Despite a slow start in the first half, MT bounced back to shoot 42.3 percent (11-of-26) from the field. Tulane was held to 37.9 percent (11-of-29). Rowe led MT with 10 points and six rebounds, while Blagg had a game-high 12 points at intermission.

Middle Tennessee maintained its advantage despite some close Green Wave comebacks. Tulane chipped away their deficit to six, 46-40, at 11:54 with a basket from Adesuwa Ebomwonyi. The Raiders used a methodical approach to maintain a 50-41 lead with 9:24 left.

Olivia Jones' free throw at the 5:49 mark gave Middle Tennessee a 15-point cushion. Tulane cut within single digits on two more occasions, which included a Tiffany Dale layup with 1:08 left. From there, Rowe knocked down four more free throws to seal the victory. Wednesday's loss was the first defeat for Tulane on Senior Day in 21 years.

Statistically, Tulane finished the game shooting 39.3 percent (22-of-56) from the field. MT went 19-of-59 from the field for 32.2 percent shooting. The Raiders hit seven treys and knocked down 91 percent (19-of-21) from the charity stripe. MT outmanned Tulane on the boards, 41-35, and forced 16 TU turnovers for 17 points. Blagg led Tulane with a team-high 18 points. 

With the conclusion of the regular season, the Blue Raiders finished the year 26-4 overall and 15-1 in Conference USA play. The 15 wins are the second most in C-USA history. MT returns to action next Thursday, March 13 in the quarterfinal round of the C-USA Championship in El Paso, Texas.

NOTES

Head Coach Rick Insell reached his 1,000th career victory with a win over Tulane on Wednesday .... Insell amassed 775 wins as head coach at Shelbyville Central and now has 225 in nine seasons at MT ... Ebony Rowe tied Kortni Jones for fourth all-time with 127 games played ... Ebony Rowe reached her 23rd double-double of the season ... Middle Tennessee is 22-0 when leading with five minutes or less in the game ... The Raiders gave Tulane their first Senior Day loss in 21 years.

QUOTES

Tulane Head Coach Lisa Stockton

On the intensity coming into the game...

"I thought the team was excited for the game. It was a great opportunity for us and we certainly knew that a bye was at stake. We felt that this was a team that if we want to win the conference tournament, we are going to have to go through again. It was a big game for our seniors and that game is always emotional type of game. The stats that made the difference were their free throws and their rebounding. Those two were clearly different. We get 7 free throws for the game and they get 21. That is a pretty big disparity to overcome."

On the big test tonight and the impact of this game going into the tournament...

"Our schedule has been pretty incredible the past two weeks. This game was good for us. Like I said, we are going to have to see them again if we are going to try and win it. I feel like our players feel like they can play with them. There are some things we would certainly like to change, but it was good to not see our team back down at all. We made a few critical mistakes and just couldn't recover."

Middle Tennessee Head Coach Rick Insell

On picking up the scoring as the game went on...

"They have a good team, very well coached, they play together a lot, have great shooters and are very smart. We just needed to turn a little time and get percentage shots and that's what we did. We got it in Rowe's (#21) hands and let her decide what to do with the ball and she did. I felt like we shot the 3-ball very poorly the second half because we had a lot of good look but didn't knock them down. Its big win here at Tulane though let me tell you that. Not many people do that."

On this game being a "scale back game" going into the tournament...

"Anytime you can win a game on the road and win one like this. Tulane is a top 100 win. Matter of fact, they are a top 60 win in the RPI. That is going to help our seeding, that's all going to help you get into that large bid in case something happens in the tournament. We have done enough now as far as our team is concerned. We won at Miami; we won at Clemson, South Florida, and South Dakota State. We have some good wins so I think the pressure is off of us as far as going into the tournament right now. This conference has absolutely worn us out, it is tough and every team in it is tough"

Middle Tennessee Senior Forward Ebony Rowe

On her 23rd double-double of the season, her mindset coming into the game...

"We knew they were going to come with a lot of energy and we knew they were going to be motivated. They had a lot to play for. With senior night and trying to get a good seed for the tournament. I thought in the beginning they came out with more energy than us. But, we stayed tough and got back to our game play. I think that is why we pulled it out."

On C-USA competition, adding a trophy to the case at the end of the year...

"We are really excited. We were really excited for the regular season, but that was just one of our goals this season. Our others goals are to win the conference tournament and then getting far in the NCAA Tournament."

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