FT. MYERS, Fla. – Despite playing stifling defense through long stretches, the Belmont women's basketball team (9-16, 8-6 A-Sun) was unable to make up lost ground from spotty shooting early in the second half on Saturday night at Florida Gulf Coast (23-2, 15-0 A-Sun). The Bruins fell to the Eagles, 54-34, and fall to 8-6 in conference action.
Redshirt junior Katie Brooks (Maryville, Tenn.) opened the first half on fire for the Bruins, netting the team's first six points with jumpers in the paint. Belmont leaned on its noteworthy defense to halt every Florida Gulf Coast attempt to score, forcing it to throw up five consecutive shots with less than eight seconds remaining on the shot clock. While the Eagles faltered, BU continued to push ahead and found itself up, 10-5, after back-to-back jumpers by freshman Katie Carroll (Lilburn, Ga.) and junior Alyssa Visbeen (Franklin, Tenn.). FGCU struggled from the floor, shooting as poorly as 11 percent as it struggled to find an offensive rhythm.
The Bruins suddenly went ice cold from the hardwood for more than 10 minutes, allowing the Eagles a chance to get back into the game with a 6-0 run to go up 16-10 by the 3:05 mark. A free-throw and a jumper by Brooks would be BU's final points of the half as FGCU took a 22-13 lead into the locker room.
After the break, BU quickly added three more points courtesy of a free-throw by senior Tristan Daniel (Waynesboro, Tenn.) and a jumper in the paint by senior Haley Nelson (Scottsboro, Ala.) but the Eagles exploded for nine points in the opening minutes to go up 31-16.
Belmont finally emerged for its second scoring drought of the night, this one lasting almost six minutes, thanks to a jumper by freshman Amara Mayers (Harvest, Ala.) at the 11:24 mark. Senior Cacy Burtnett (Cleveland, Tenn.) and freshman Adrienne Tarrence netted back-to-back jumpers to cut the FGCU lead to 17, 39-22, but that would be as close as the Bruins would come for the remainder of the night. The Eagles continued to pile on the points down the stretch but it would not be until the final 90 seconds of regulation that Belmont showed signs of life offensively. Tarrence completed a three-point play and classmate Torie Vaught (Maryville, Tenn.) netted what would be the final layup of the contest with 47 seconds left. The late flurry only closed the gap to 20, 54-34, in favor for Florida Gulf Coast.
FGCU shot 40 percent from the floor, 10.5 percent from three-point range and 66.7 percent from the free-throw line. The Eagles held the advantage in rebounds, 39-32, assists, 9-5, blocks, 4-3, and steals, 5-3.
Florida Gulf Coast was led in scoring by Sarah Hansen, who recorded 14 points. Brittany Kennedy also reached double digits, adding 10. Kennedy also led the Eagles in rebounds, grabbing nine.
Belmont shot 31 percent from the hardwood and 44.4 percent from the charity stripe. For the first time since the 1998-99 campaign, the Bruins failed to net a three pointer.
Brooks led the Bruins with nine points. Tarrence and Mayers added seven and six points, respectively.
Belmont returns to action on Thursday at the Curb Event Center for its final home games of the season. The Bruins host USC Upstate beginning at 7 p.m.