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Towson women’s basketball overwhelms Morgan State, 95-59, behind Kionna Jeter and high-scoring offense

The Towson women’s basketball team fell short of reaching 100 points for a third consecutive game, which would have extended a program record. But that hardly diminished the convincing nature of Sunday afternoon’s victory over Morgan State.

The Tigers scored the game’s first six points and never trailed en route to a 95-59 thumping of the visiting Bears at SECU Arena in Towson. The Tigers’ second-most lopsided win of the season was also their largest margin of victory in their 26-game series with Morgan State and the most points they had scored in the series’ history.

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Failing to hit the century mark after scoring 108 points against Longwood on Dec. 5 and 113 against Salem on Friday was perhaps the only blemish to the afternoon for Towson, which improved to 5-1 and picked up its third straight victory since a 112-78 loss at No. 14 Maryland on Dec. 3.

“We’re trying to score 100 points every game,” redshirt senior shooting guard Kionna Jeter said. “I know Coach Rich [Diane Richardson] wanted us to get three games in a row with 100 points. That’s what we tried to do today. … I think we could’ve done a little bit better.”

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Sophomore point guard Aleah Nelson clarified that the recent spate of 100-point displays are a product of the team’s offensive philosophy.

“The 100 points in the last two games, it just happened because Coach Rich preaches getting out and getting fastbreak points, and that’s what helps us build our lead,” said Nelson, a Baltimore resident and McDonogh graduate who transferred from Cincinnati. “So I wouldn’t say we were looking for that. It just happens as a team, and we’re a really good scoring team.”

That much was evident from the beginning when the 5-foot-8 Jeter, a two-time All-Colonial Athletic Association first-team selection and the conference’s preseason Player of the Year, scored the game’s first six points. Morgan State scored seven of the next nine points to close the gap to 8-7 with 5:25 left in the first quarter, but then the Tigers took over from that point.

A jumper by senior center LaKaitlin Wright ignited a 9-0 run over a 2:11 span. After junior shooting guard Ashia McCalla converted two free throws with 2:56 remaining to end the Bears’ drought of 2:29, Towson embarked on a 7-3 spurt to end the opening frame with a 24-12 advantage.

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The Tigers started the second quarter with a 22-4 run fueled by 10 points from Jeter and were never seriously threatened after that.

Jeter, who scored 11 points in the first quarter and 10 in the second, finished with career highs in points (33) and field goals made (14) and had three steals. She hit five of seven shots from 3-point range, an area she said she worked on in the offseason.

“I know I was shooting a lot by myself trying to get my shot together,” said Jeter, who moved into eighth place in the program’s history in scoring with 1,251 career points in 68 games. “I just tried to get it improved.”

Jeter was aided by the 5-6 Nelson, who registered her second double double of the season with 14 points and a career-high 11 assists. Nelson, who also had five rebounds and three steals, said she was unaware of her performance until after the game.

“I feel good about it,” she said. “The point-scoring, they told me to just be aggressive, but I think the assists really come from my teammates. We were actually just talking about it in the locker room. They were like, ‘You make good passes,’ but I think I’m doing less than half of the job. I told them, ‘You’ve got to catch the ball, and then you have to score.’ I feel like that’s a little bit harder. So shout-out to everybody that helps me get those assists because it’s not just me getting them the ball. They’re doing their jobs and putting it in the basket.”

Junior shooting guard Shavonne Smith scored 10 points, junior guard Skye Williams chipped in nine points, three rebounds and three steals, and junior forward Narrie Dodson tied Nelson for the team lead in rebounds as Towson crashed the boards by a 36-31 margin.

“I think with the people that we have coming in, everybody can do their jobs,” Jeter said. “We have a lot of scorers, and we have a lot of people on the bench that can do what they can do. It just helps.”

The Tigers finished with 13 steals to Morgan State’s eight and blocked five shots to the Bears’ three. Richardson said she was pleased to see the defense establish a new bar in points allowed.

“It was a good team effort today,” she said. “I think our defense picked it up a little bit from what we’ve done in the past. We wanted to stop the scoring and be defensive-minded moreso than offensive today. I think we accomplished that.”

Nelson said the players carried out associate head coach Zach Kancher’s wish to alternate between man-to-man and zone defense — the latter especially as Morgan State struggled to convert just 29.2% (19-for-65) of their shots from the floor.

“They weren’t hitting a lot of their outside shots,” she said. “So Coach Zach also preaches that we have to be able to play both defenses — man or zone. So I feel like today was a good confidence booster that we can play zone and play the three-point line as well. They weren’t shooting that well. So we stayed in zone 90 percent of the game.”

Senior forward Dahnye Redd paced Morgan State with 21 points and three rebounds despite a scary situation with 5:42 left in the first quarter when she grabbed a defensive rebound and had a Towson player accidentally roll into her left knee. Redd limped off the court and into the locker room, but returned at the 4:23 mark with a sleeve on her left leg.

Sophomore point guard Ja’Niah Henson added 13 points and two steals, while McCalla scored 11 points. Henson and McCalla, who entered the game averaging a combined 29.3 points, totaled just seven points in the first half.

The Bears played without head coach Edward Davis Jr., who left Friday’s 67-63 home win against Navy because of health reasons and was hospitalized. A team spokesman said Davis was scheduled to leave the hospital Sunday, but had no other information on his condition. Associate head coach Wanika Owsley led the team in Davis’ place.

SAINT FRANCIS@TOWSON

Tuesday, 2 p.m.

MORGAN STATE@TEXAS TECH

Wednesday, 1 p.m.

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