Women's Basketball Holds On to Defeat Jacksonville, 68-62
NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The Belmont women's basketball team (8-14, 7-4 A-Sun) had to work until the very end of regulation to secure its win over Jacksonville (7-15, 5-6 A-Sun) at the Curb Event Center on Saturday evening. The Bruins held off a Dolphin surge in the final 18 seconds to hold on for the 68-62 victory to cement their hold on third-place in the Atlantic Sun by improving to 7-4.
The contest opened at hyper speed with both teams firing often and crashing the boards hard on both ends. Jacksonville took an early five point lead, 9-4, but by the 15:15 mark, the Bruins were within one behind a three-point play and a bucket from senior Haley Nelson (Scottsboro, Ala.). The squads continued trading baskets until another Nelson tip-in knotted the score at 15 with 10:56. However, JU stormed back to regain the lead, 20-15, 90 seconds later.
The Bruins turned up the defensive heat and kept Jacksonville from finding the bottom of the net for four minutes as jumpers from freshmen Adrienne Tarrence (Bowling Green, Ky.) and Amara Mayers (Harvest, Ala.) moved BU to within striking distance, 20-19, by the 6:22 mark. The Dolphins were only able to rebuild their lead to four, 27-23, with 2:44 left on the clock before BU turned up the defensive pressure again. Nelson, who was on fire offensively, netted her 15th point of the contest 30 seconds later to make it a two-point game, 27-25. Jacksonville attempted to put distance between the teams but missed three consecutive shots, opening the door for the Bruins to take the lead going into the half. Sophomore Molly Ernst (Louisville, Ky.) drained a trifecta from the corner with 28 seconds remaining to put Belmont on top going into the break, 28-27.
Belmont opened the second stanza with a trey from the corner by freshman Katie Carroll (Lilburn, Ga.) and a second one by Ernst, forcing Jacksonville to call timeout with 16:31 left on the clock. The Bruins continued streaking, eventually putting together a 9-2 run to pull away, 38-29, barely one minute later. The Dolphins hustled to close the gap to five points, 43-38, but the Bruins continued to pile on the points and expand their point advantage.
By the 9:16 mark, BU had its first 10-point lead, 48-38, behind another three pointer by Ernst and a Nelson layup. Redshirt junior Katie Brooks (Maryville, Tenn.) was awarded a free-throw after she was fouled on a drive to put Belmont ahead by 13 on the next possession. The Dolphins pushed to move within eight, 51-43, but Belmont was able to maintain control and keep distance between the teams. Tarrence completed a three-point play and Brooks netted a pair at the stripe to give the Bruins their largest lead of the contest, 15 points, 60-45, with 3:54 left in regulation.
JU made one final surge in the final three and a half minutes of regulation, hustling to close the gap to single digits again, 61-43, after a well-placed triple with 53 seconds remaining. Belmont was in the double bonus and the Dolphins attempted to keep hope alive down the stretch by continuing to send the Bruins to the line. Four consecutive trips only netted five successful free throws, still leaving a narrow chance for a Jacksonville comeback. A layup and back-to-back three pointers moved JU to within three, 65-62, with only eight ticks remaining in regulation. However, the Bruins were able to play wisely in the few remaining seconds and hold on for the 68-62 win using trips to the stripe by Brooks and Tarrence.
Jacksonville shot 31.4 percent from the floor, 53.3 percent from three-point range and 62.5 percent from the free-throw line. The Dolphins held the advantage in rebounds, 47-38, and steals, 8-7.
The Dolphins were led in scoring and rebounding by Crystal Bell, who netted 17 points and 12 rebounds. Also reaching double digits were Maggie Wilson and Abril Peeples, who scored 11 and 10, respectively.
Belmont shot 43.4 percent from the hardwood, 22.2 percent from behind the three-point arc and 66.7 percent from the charity stripe. The Bruins held the advantage in assists, 14-12, and blocks, 7-2.
Nelson notched her 12th double-double of the season matching her career high of 22 points and a game-high 14 rebounds. Brooks netted 14 points and Ernst finished with nine points and a career-high two blocks.
Belmont returns to action on Saturday, February 4 for part two of the Battle of the Boulevard at Lipscomb. Tip time is set for 6:30 p.m. and the contest can be seen live on ESPN3. Live stats and a Twitter feed (@BelmontWBB) will also be available.