NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Despite a valiant effort, the Belmont women's basketball team (14-17) unable to topple top-seeded UT Martin (24-7) on Saturday in the OVC Championship game. The Bruins were held off, 78-66.
The Skyhawks jumped out an 11-3 lead spurred by three consecutive triples forcing the Bruin bench to burn a timeout early to settle down. Out of the brief break, redshirt freshman Frankie Joubran (Detroit, Mich.) battled for a putback jumper under the basket and junior Adrienne Tarrence (Bowling Green, Ky.) followed with a great drive in the lane to cut the UTM lead to six, 13-7, with 15:43 remaining.
A stingy Bruin defensive effort kept the Bruins in striking distance for several minutes and they capitalized with a triple by junior Jordyn Luffman (Lawrenceburg, Tenn.) to make it a one possession game, 19-17, with just over 10 minutes on the clock. The Skyhawks rebuilt a six-point lead, 25-19, over the next five minutes but a banked in three by junior Taylor Mills (Corryton, Tenn.) moved BU to within three, 25-22, at the 5:06 mark. The Bruins kept pushing and two minutes later, they had succeeded in making it a one-point game, 28-27, behind another trey by Mills.
UT Martin rebounded and by the final 60 seconds of the half, it had managed to regrow its lead to seven, 34-27. Luffman knocked down a jumper in the lane but UTM's Karisma Tyson drained a three pointer at the buzzer to send the teams to their respective locker rooms separated by eight points, 37-29.
The Skyhawks opened the second stanza with a three pointer and quickly grabbed their first double digit lead of the afternoon as they went 5-for-5 from the floor. A trifecta by junior Katie Carroll (Lilburn, Ga.) and a jumper in the lane by Tarrence moved the differential back to single digits. However, the Skyhawks went on a 9-2 run to pull away, 53-38, by the 15 minute mark.
A three pointer by Joubran sparked a BU rally and soon the Bruins were back within striking distance. UTM fell ice cold going 0-6 from the hardwood over the span as the Bruins surged behind a huge momentum shift, forcing a series of turnovers and knocking down crucial shots from all over the floor.
Belmont remained within striking distance until the Skyhawks surged in the final three minutes fueled by back-to-back three pointers that put them on top, 74-61, with just over two minutes left on the clock. The Bruins continued to battle down the stretch but were unable to overcome the deficit and were held off 78-66.
Luffman and Carroll were both named to the OVC All-Tournament Team.
UTM shot 51.9 percent from the floor, 60 percent from three-point range and 83.3 percent from the free-throw line. The Skyhawks held the advantage in assists, 16-15, and blocks, 4-2.
UT Martin was led in scoring by Jasmine Newsome, who netted a game-high 25 points. Ashia Jones added 16 points while Heather Butler and Katie Schubert each contributed 12. Newsome led the team in rebounds with a total of seven.
Belmont shot 39.4 percent from the hardwood, 32 percent from behind the three-point arc, and 85.7 percent from the charity stripe. The Bruins held the advantage in rebounds, 35-30. The teams were even in steals with six each.
For the seventh time this season, four or more Bruins reached double digits in scoring. Luffman scored 16 points. Joubran notched a double-double with 13 points and a game-high 10 rebounds. Tarrence and Mills each netted 10 points.
Despite the loss, the Bruins will get to lace up some dancing shoes after snagging the OVC's automatic bid to the WNIT. Selections and competition locations will be announced the evening of Monday, March 17.