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Towson women’s basketball enjoys laugher, walloping UNC Wilmington, 78-45

The Towson women’s basketball program has learned that nothing has come easy for the reigning Colonial Athletic Association champion.

Friday night, though, was one of the easier times.

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Kionna Jeter scored 20 points, and three of her teammates reached double digits in points to power the Tigers to a 78-45 pasting of visiting UNC Wilmington before an announced 298 at SECU Arena in Towson.

The margin of victory marked the program's most lopsided win in the CAA and largest against a league foe since 1999-2000 when that squad enjoyed an 83-44 America East win against Boston University.

Jeter also collected a game-high 12 rebounds and handed out three assists for Towson, which ended a three-game losing skid to improve to 11-11 overall and 6-5 in the league. She got considerable help from senior point guard Qierra Murray (16 points, four rebounds, three assists), senior forward Nukiya Mayo (10 points and five rebounds) and sophomore guard Shavonne Smith (10 points).

This season has been more challenging for the Tigers, who are only two losses short of last season’s overall record of 20-13. They are now four games behind conference leader Drexel (17-6 overall and 10-1 in the league). They opened the CAA portion of their schedule with two consecutive setbacks and then won five straight before dropping their next three.

Coach Diane Richardson acknowledged that opponents have raised their level of effort against Towson.

“We felt that from the very beginning,” she said. “We knew that because we were the defending champions, everybody would bring their A game. And they’ve had a lot of time to look at film and see what we do. We’ve had to step up from that. It was kind of an eye-opener for us. … I think we’re showing that, especially today.”

Added Jeter: “We knew we had a target on our backs in the beginning of the season. So we know what to expect. We’ve just got to play harder, and we’ve just got to be ourselves. We know what we can do.”

The Tigers began Friday’s game slowly, missing their first five attempts from the field. But UNCW could only take advantage with a single free throw.

After the Seahawks scored the first four points of the second quarter to tie the score at 13-13 with 8:44 remaining, Towson went on a 20-0 run over 5:25. The key was their defense.

The Seahawks (6-17 overall and 3-9 in the conference) shot just 13.3 percent from 3-point range (2-for-15) and committed 16 turnovers, which Towson turned into 19 points. The Tigers outscored UNCW on the fastbreak, 18-10, and in the paint, 30-22.

“We pride ourselves a lot on defense,” said Murray, a Baltimore resident and Milford Mill graduate. “That’s what kind of gets our offense going. We’re a transition team, and today I think we did a very good job with steals and rebounding. We picked that up.”

Towson also dominated on the glass, collecting 52 rebounds to the Seahawks’ 31. The Tigers had 19 offensive rebounds, which contributed to a 19-5 advantage in second-chance points.

“We didn’t do such a good job last week, and we know that we’re capable of it,” Richardson said. “So they just had to get into the mindset of going after rebounds, and the results were the second-chance points.”

Senior point guard Ahyiona Vason totaled 18 points and four rebounds for UNCW, which was swept by Towson by a combined 54 points. Coach Karen Barefoot said it’s difficult to tell that the Tigers have had a not-as-easy time this winter.

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“They’re one of the most talented teams not even in our conference, but out there,” she said. “Mayo and Jeter and Murray and the pieces they have around them, they’re very talented. They’re elite.”

Barefoot said she had tried to brace her players for an energized Towson squad reeling from an 81-39 thrashing at James Madison on Sunday. Murray acknowledged that the players used that embarrassment as motivation.

“I said before the game that whoever was next, they were going to get all the smoke because we took the JMU loss a little personal,” she said. “So here on out, I think this is how we need to play to get back onto that road to the championship.”

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