By Chris Schmidbauer, Sports Information Director
Toledo, OH -- With points at a premium in Tuesday's OCCAC showdown with #11 Sinclair, the #5 Express turned up their defensive intensity in a 63-42 win over the Tartan Pride on Wednesday night.
The first half was an offensive struggle for both teams. The Express shot just 27.8% from the floor and just 21.4% from beyond the arc. But the pressure Owens applied on defense allowed them to jump out to a double digit lead by half time. The team had four steals and forced four more turnovers to keep them ahead on Sinclair, who was a game up on Owens for first place in the OCCAC coming into tonight's game.
Owens was able to get their halftime lead by taking advantage at the charity stripe. The Express were a perfect 10-10 from the free throw line, which helped put some distance between them and the visiting Tartan Pride.
The third quarter saw Sinclair start to claw their way back into the game. Trailing by 18 points at halftime, the visitors from Dayton, OH got as close as seven points in at the 3:25 mark in the third quarter, after a Kierre James layup. But the Express would answer back. Owens would close the third quarter on a 10-2 run to claim a 16 point lead heading to the fourth quarter.
The final period saw the Express add to their lead, outscoring Sinclair 17-12 over the game's final 10 minutes. Essence Cowan scored eight of the team's final 17 points. She used the midrange jumper and a pair of layups to help salt away the victory. The sophomore finished with a team high 16 points on 6-10 shooting. Brenda Pennington was hot on her heels, scoring 12 points on 50% shooting from the floor. She also had three assists and three steals in the ballgame as well.
Dai'Shona Polk and Kaylah Ivey both added to their double-double totals for the 2017-2018 season. Polk had 11 points on an off shooting night and finished with 11 rebounds as well. Ivey had 10 points and 13 boards, with seven of them coming on the offensive glass for the sophomore. Both players now have six double-doubles each for the season.
Freshman Da'Vina Shelton finished with 11 points with eight of those points coming via free throws.
For the game, Owens shot just 33.9% from the floor for the game, but they did shoot much better in the second half at 43.5% for the game's final twenty minutes. Sinclair shot just 31.5% from the floor. They were led in scoring by Madison Connally-Banks in scoring with eight points.
Owens has now won six games in a row. It is the second longest winning streak of the season. The Express won 10 game in a row earlier this season from November 21 to December 28. The team is now 19-4 overall and 9-1in the OCCAC which leaves them in a tie for first place with Sinclair with four conference games left to play for each team. The Tartan Pride fell to 22-3 overall and 9-1 in the OCCAC as well.
The Express will be on the road again this Saturday against Hocking College. The Hawks have had a difficult season so far. Hocking has not won a game yet this season at 0-18 overall and 0-9 in the conference. Owens won the first matchup between the two schools at home back on December 2nd. The Express won that game 118-35.
- Owens is now ranked nationally at #5 in the NJCAA Division II Top 20 Poll. It is the highest the Express have been ranked this season. The last time they were ranked in the top five of the poll was last season, when the Express were ranked as high as #2 nationally. Owens is currently ranked behind Monroe, Kirkwood, Highland (KS), and St. Louis in that order.