Belmont Abbey junior forward McKenzie Owen netted a career-high 30 points as the Crusaders women's basketball team closed the game on a 25-10 run in the final 5:42 to overcome a five point deficit and earn a 93-82 win over the visiting Erskine Flying Fleet this evening at the Wheeler Center. The win moves the Abbey's record to 14-6 overall and 8-2 in Conference Carolinas, while Erskine drops to 11-7 overall and 6-4 in league play.
The win sets up a battle for first place on Saturday night, as the Crusaders welcome Limestone to the Wheeler Center. The Abbey is a half game back of the Saints in the standings, but the Crusaders won on Limestone's floor on January 11, a 59-53 victory.
The 93 points scored is the second 90 point game for the Crusaders in the last five years, and the second year in a row after a 94-46 win over Converse on January 3, 2013.
Belmont Abbey scored a first half best 51 points in the first half as it made nearly 60 percent of its shots, converting 19 of 32 from the floor. Erskine was nearly as efficient, draining 51 percent of its shots, but the Abbey carried a 51-40 lead into the break. Owen netted 17 points in 19 minutes in the opening half, while Kelsey Long added 12. Erskine led by as many as eight in the first half, but the Crusaders turned a 28-28 tie with 8:29 to go into a 51-40 halftime lead on the strength of a 23-12 run to close the half.
Erskine clawed back into the game to begin the second half, as it embarked on a 23-12 run through the first 8:47 to grab its first lead since the 8:35 mark of the first half.
The two teams then traded the lead before a 5-0 Erskine run gave the Fleet a 73-68 edge with 5:56 to go, but the Crusaders made their move, much like Saturday when it seized control of the game late in the win over North Greenville.
Morgan Midkiff drained a three pointer to cut the deficit to a pair and after a missed Erskine shot on the other end, Tajanna Brown tied the game for the seventh and last time, at 73-73 with 5:02 to play.
Two possessions later, Erskine moved ahead for the final time on a Raygon Hendrix jumper, part of her game-high 35 points, but the Fleet did not lead again.
On the Abbey's next trip, Melisa Foures drained a three-pointer, followed by an empty Erskine offensive trip, and Owen extended the lead to three with a putback of her own missed shot, coming with 3:01 left.
33 seconds later, Hendrix pulled Erskine to within three with two free throws, but Owen sank a running layup as she was fouled. Converting the traditional three point play, her efforts moved the Abbey's lead to 83-77 with 1:50 to go.
The lead rose to as high as 11 as the Abbey hit its free throws in the final 1:15, while Erskine made just two field goals in the final 4:12. The Fleet missed six of its last eight shots and turned the ball over four times in the final 3:30.
Owen finished with a career-high 30 points on 13-23 shooting from the field with nine rebounds, one assist, one steal and one blocked shot in 34 minutes. Midkiff added 20 on five of 14 shooting from the floor while converting all nine of her free throws. She also had five assists and two steals. Long scored 12 points, handed out four assists and collected two steals. Brown netted 11. Foures led all players with 11 rebounds and also collected four steals to go along with her six points. Candace Fox handed out eight assists as 22 of the Abbey's 32 field goals were assisted.
The Crusaders shot 50.8 percent (32-63) from the field and made 23-26 from the line.