Stunner! Women's Basketball Topples Undefeated Stetson, 65-58
NASHVILLE, Tenn. – It was almost like exacting revenge. The Belmont women's basketball team (5-13, 4-3 A-Sun) handed Stetson (16-4, 7-1 A-Sun) it's first Atlantic Sun loss of the season on Saturday evening. The Bruins defeated the Hatters, 65-58, to snap SU's 10-game win streak while improving to 4-3 in league play and remaining tied for third.
The last time the two programs met was in the semifinals of the 2011 Atlantic Sun Tournament when the Hatters edged BU on a last second shot in Brittney Ezell's first year at the helm of the Bruins. Tonight, the Bruins outplayed and outhustled Stetson to wipe the bitter taste from nearly one year ago from their collective mouths.
The Bruins opened the contest on fire, exploding for a 7-0 run in the first two and a half minutes behind jumpers by seniors Tristan Daniel (Waynesboro, Tenn.) and Haley Nelson (Scottsboro, Ala.), capped by a triple from the corner by sophomore Molly Ernst (Louisville, Ky.). Stetson netted one of a pair at the line to get its first point of the contest at the 17:35 mark but the Bruins kept piling on the points. Baskets by redshirt junior Katie Brooks (Maryville, Tenn.), freshman Katie Carroll (Lilburn, Ga.), and Nelson expanded BU's lead to 14, 15-1, with just under 15 minutes on the clock.
The Bruins leaned on stellar defense to keep the Hatters from netting their first field-goal of the half until nearly the 14 minute mark. Once they finally uncapped the lid, Stetson put together a 6-0 run but the effort only moved them to within six, 15-7, two minutes later. However, the Bruins maintained their suffocating defensive effort, keeping SU from even reaching double digits until the 11:42 mark. Treys by Ernst and freshman Torie Vaught (Maryville, Tenn.) sandwiched a Daniel jumper to give Belmont its largest lead of the half, 14, 23-9, with 10:22 left in the half.
The Hatters began chipping away at the BU lead with an 8-0 run and by the 6:13 mark, they had made it a six-point game, 23-17. The Bruins would not relinquish their lead and barely three minutes later, they managed to rebuild a double digit advantage behind back-to-back skyhooks by Nelson. The team eventually went up by 12, 31-19, after junior Alyssa Visbeen (Franklin, Tenn.) knocked down a jumper at the left elbow. SU would net the final points of the half but Belmont easily carried a 31-22 advantage into the locker room.
Belmont carried over its strong defensive effort into the second stanza, keeping the Hatters from finding the bottom of the net until the 16:45 mark with a free-throw, spurred by an 11-point run. BU continued to expand its lead using baskets from all over the hardwood and went on to grab its biggest lead of the contest, 19 points, with Ernst's third triple of the contest.
BU maintained its stranglehold on the tempo throughout the midpoint of the half. However, the Hatters began waging a comeback around the seven minute mark and in just three and a half minutes had worked to narrow the scoring gap to a mere five points, 52-47. Undaunted, Belmont made its stand at the charity stripe, taking advantage of being in the double bonus. In fact, the Bruins did not find the bottom of the net away from the charity stripe in the final three minutes.
Stetson attempted one last dramatic rally in the final minute of regulation and it almost looked like déjà vu for BU. The Hatters needed to keep sending the Bruins to the free-throw line to stay in the game and make quick work in the short time they had. SU hustled to inch within four points, 62-58, behind back-to-back treys with only 11 seconds left. However, the Bruins continued to put the ball in the hands of Ernst who was near flawless at the stripe in the final seconds. In the final 25 seconds, Ernst went a blistering 7-for-8 to insure the Bruins' victory. A missed SU three pointer with three ticks remaining sealed the 65-58 win for Belmont.
SU shot 30.9 percent from the floor, 23.8 percent from three-point range and 79.2 percent from the free-throw line. The Hatters held the advantage in steals, 10-6.
Stetson was led in scoring by Victoria McGowan, who scored a game-high 21 points. Sasha Sims picked up a double-double with 14 points and a game-high 11 rebounds.
Belmont shot 42.0 percent from the hardwood, 28.6 percent from behind the three-point arc and a season-best 86.4 percent from the charity stripe. The Bruins held the advantage in rebounds, 42-29, and assists, 11-6. The teams were tied in blocks with four each.
Ernst led the Bruins in scoring with 18 points, half of which were netted beyond the three-point arc. Nelson, who was presented a ball commemorating her 1,000th career point prior to tip-off, notched her eighth double-double of the season with 17 points and team-high 10 rebounds. Brooks added 12 points and a game-high five assists in the effort.
Belmont returns to action on January 19 on the road. The Bruins face off against in-state rival ETSU (4-13, 3-4 A-Sun). Game time is set for 6 p.m. CT. The matchup can be heard live on the Bruins Sports Network and seen on ASun.TV. Live stats and a Twitter feed (@BelmontWBB) will also be available.