NASHVILLE, Tenn. – History was made on Thursday night at the Curb Event Center for the Belmont women's basketball team (4-5, 1-1 A-Sun). Head Coach Brittney Ezell earned her first Atlantic Sun victory and senior Shaunda Strayhorn (Dyersburg, Tenn.) notched the program's first triple-double of the NCAA era as the Bruins defeated visiting Kennesaw State (2-5, 0-1 A-Sun), 71-55.
Junior Haley Nelson opened the contest with back-to-back jumpers before Kennesaw State would cut the lead in half with a bucket from Ashley Holliday. The Owls were able to knot the score at seven by the 16:40 mark after converting a three-point play. However, the Bruins soon caught fire offensively and quickly began piling on the points. By the 9:45 mark, BU had blown its lead up to 25-9, with baskets coming from Strayhorn, juniors Haley Nelson (Scottsboro, Ala.) and Cacy Burtnett (Cleveland, Tenn.), sophomore Alyssa Visbeen (Franklin, Tenn.) and freshman Molly Ernst (Louisville, Ky.), taking advantage of KSU's offensive effort that seemingly ground to a halt. The icy Owls only managed to score three points over five and a half minutes and only crossed the double digit threshold at the 8:15 mark.
KSU was briefly surged behind a converted three-point play by Tamasha Bolden and with just four minutes remaining in the first half had managed to move to within nine, 28-19. The Bruins put together a 12-1 run to expand their lead to 20, 40-20, after a triple from Visbeen with just over 90 seconds remaining before the break. Belmont controlled the clock for the remainder of the half but the Owls managed to add three more points to their tally before the horn. The Bruins easily carried a 40-23 advantage into the locker rooms.
The Bruins continued streaking to open the second stanza with freshman Molly Ernst (Louisville, Ky.) drilling back-to-back treys, showing why she is ranked sixth in the Nation in three-point shooting. KSU began to play a little more lively but would still be down by 20, 53-33, by the 13:39 mark. The contest quickly turned into a three-point shootout on both ends but the Bruins easily came out on top thanks to Visbeen and Strayhorn and Ernst to stay ahead by 22, 62-40, with 9:37 left on the clock. Sophomore Kristin Nash (Stone Mountain, Ga.) hit the back end of a pair at the free throw to give Belmont its largest lead of the night, 23, 63-40, barely 20 seconds later.
BU slowed its point production but continued to maintain control of the game in the waning minutes. By the four minute mark, the Owls had finally trimmed Belmont's lead to less than 20 with the help of a jumper by Sametria Gideon. Kennesaw State pressed to move within 15, 66-51, with 2:54 remaining in regulation. Unfortunately, that would be as close as they would come as the Bruins cruised to the 71-55 victory. The win over the Owls gave Ezell her first Atlantic Sun win at the helm of the BU program.
Kennesaw State shot 33.9 percent from the floor, an icy 18.2 percent from three-point range and 68.8 percent from the free-throw line. The Owls held the narrow advantage in rebounds, 36-35, and steals, 13-6.
KSU was led in scoring by Gideon, who netted 14 points. Bolden added 12 and Angie Smith contributed 10 points.
Belmont shot a season-best 50.9 percent from the hardwood, a season-best 64.7 percent from behind the three-point arc, and 46.2 percent from the charity stripe. BU held the advantage in assists, 20-7, and blocks, 4-2.
Four Bruins reached double digits in scoring, led by Nelson with 16. Ernst and Visbeen, who notched a career-high, added 14. Strayhorn, the reigning Atlantic Sun Player of the Week, netted 11 points, pulled down a career and game-high 10 rebounds and notched a career and game-high 10 assists for the first triple-double of the program's NCAA era of play.
Belmont will return to action on Saturday with its final road trip of the 2010 portion of its schedule. The Bruins will hit the road to face off against Alabama, alma mater of new Bruin head coach Brittney Ezell. Game time is slated for 2 p.m. The game can be heard live via the internet on the Bruins Sports Network.