By Rickey Fuquay, Jr.//Contributing Writer
Middle Tennessee (16-6, 10-2 C-USA) cruised to a win Thursday night at the Murphy Center after defeating Rice 79-61.
It was a historic night for the Blue Raiders. Senior forward Cheyenne Parker recorded her 79th block of the season with 15:07 left in the second half to break the school record for most blocks in a single season.
The record for blocks was last held by Kay Wilbanks, who recorded 78 blocks in 1985.
The Blue Raiders started off cold in the first half, shooting just 33 percent from the field. Despite the cold start, MTSU had a one-point edge with 15:51 left in the first half.
Middle Tennessee opened up the scoring with a 19-9 run to take a 24-13 lead with 7:39 left in the first frame. The Blue Raiders continued to build on their lead the rest of the first half, using a late 11-4 run to go into halftime with a 44-26 advantage.
The second half started off in a back-and-forth affair as the two teams traded buckets with one another. MTSU led 55-37 with 15:10 left in regulation, but the Owls responded with a late comeback after a 12-5 run that cut the lead to nine points with 7:30 left in the second half.
“We stopped playing defense,” Cason said. “We stopped going to the boards and I think we just mentally shut down, got tired and we can’t do that.”
The Blue Raiders answered with a run of their own, ending the game on a 19-10 run to hold off the late rally by Rice for their fourth-straight home win.
Parker came up huge for the Blue Raiders like she has all season, recording her 13th double-double of the season.
Parker tallied 29 points on 9-of-18 shooting from the field, while adding 14 rebounds, four assists, three blocks and two steals.
Also in double figures was sophomore Olivia Jones, who recorded 13 points on 5-of-13 shooting along with six rebounds.
Senior Shanice Cason also topped the double-figure mark, scoring 12 points, bringing down six rebounds, three assists and five steals.
Sophomore Ty Petty added 10 points and five assists for the Blue Raiders.
The Owls (7-15, 2-9 C-USA) were led by senior Christal Porter, who notched a double-double with 11 points and 15 rebounds.
Freshman Shani Rainey also reached double figures for Rice, recording 10 points and adding five rebounds.
It was a fantastic performance inside as the Blue Raiders scored 30 points in the paint. They also blocked three shots.
MTSU pressured the Owls into 20 turnovers on the night, turning those into 14 points.
The Blue Raiders will stay at home for the weekend, hosting North Texas on Saturday in the Murphy Center. Tip-off is set for 4 p.m. CST.
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