JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. -- Behind an Atlantic Sun record tying three-point performance by sophomore Molly Ernst (Louisville, Ky.), the Belmont women's basketball team (6-13, 5-3 A-Sun) handily defeated in-state rival ETSU (4-14, 3-5 A-Sun), 88-75.
BU jumped out to an 8-2 lead barely two and half minutes into the first half behind a pair of triples by sophomore Molly Ernst (Louisville, Ky.) and freshman Katie Carroll (Lilburn, Ga.) and a layup by redshirt junior Katie Brooks (Maryville, Tenn.). The Bruins blew their lead up to nine, 17-8, three minutes later behind back-to-back treys from Ernst. ETSU finally got its collective head in the game and buckled down to make it a one possession game, 20-18, with 10:42 on the clock. However, that would be as close as the Lady Bucs would come in the half as the Bruins turned up the heat all over the floor with baskets coming from senior Haley Nelson (Scottsboro, Ala.), junior Alyssa Visbeen (Franklin, Tenn.), and freshmen Adrienne Tarrence (Bowling Green, Ky.) and Amara Mayers (Harvest, Ala.).
By the 4:24 mark, the Bruins had built its first double digit lead, 34-24, behind another three pointer by Ernst. The Lady Bucs attempted to stay with BU but had no answers for the Bruins' hustle on either end of the court. Ernst's sixth triple of the half that put Belmont up, 41-27, forced ETSU to call timeout with 2:12 left before the break. It would be nearly another minute before the Lady Bucs would score again but Carroll swished at pair at line to give BU its largest lead of the half, 16 points, 43-27. ETSU was able to close the half with a jumper and a three pointer but Belmont carried a 43-32 lead into the locker room.
The Lady Bucs opened the second stanza with a completely different energy level than the first, netting six points in the first 90 seconds of action. However, the Bruins were able to regain their double digit lead with baskets from Carroll and Brooks. After boasting their largest lead of the night, 17 points, BU saw the Lady Bucs wage a massive comeback effort around the 13 minute mark. ETSU used a 13-0 run to trim Belmont's lead down to only four, 57-53, with 9:27 remaining.
The Lady Bucs would push to make it a two-point game, 63-61, four minutes later. However, the Bruins remained calm and got fired up behind an 11-0 run including back-to-back threes by Carroll and senior Tristan Daniel (Waynesboro, Tenn.) to go up by 13, 74-61, with just under two minutes remaining in regulation.
Belmont took advantage of being in the double bonus down the stretch, netting 14-of-18 shots at the stripe. The Lady Bucs threatened once again with 48 seconds left, moving to within eight, 77-69, but the work BU continued to put in at the free-throw line kept the Bruins ahead for good as they cruised to the 88-75 victory.
ETSU shot 41.2 percent from the floor, 33.3 percent from three-point range and 66.7 percent from the free-throw line. The Lady Bucs held the advantage in rebounds, 37-33, and steals, 7-5.
Four ETSU players reached double digits led by Cara Bowling and Maria Bond's 16 points. Destiny Mitchell and Amy Duke added 13 and 10 points, respectively.
Belmont shot a season-high 55.1 percent from the hardwood, 55 percent from behind the three-point arc and 65.7 percent from the charity stripe in the victory. The Bruins held the advantage in assists, 17-9, and blocks, 8-0.
Ernst was perfect from behind the three-point arc in the first half going 6-for-6 en route to scoring a game and career-high 27 points. Nelson added 21 points and pulled down 12 rebounds to notch her ninth double-double of the season while Carroll a career-high 13 points. Brooks finished with nine points and a game-high six assists.
Belmont returns to action on Saturday, wrapping its road trip at USC Upstate. Tip-off is slated for 4:30 p.m. CT. The contest can be heard live via the internet on the Bruins Sports Network and seen on ASun.TV. Live stats and a Twitter feed (@BelmontWBB) will also be available.