COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – An incredible comeback effort and shift in momentum in the final 90 seconds of regulation was not enough to keep the Belmont women's basketball team (7-8, 2-1 OVC) from being handed its first loss of the conference season on Saturday evening. The Bruins fell in the final 45 seconds on the road at Tennessee Tech (8-7, 2-0 OVC), 58-52.
The Bruins opened the contest with a breakneck pace but were unable to find the bottom of the net for the first nearly four minutes of action. TTU struggled as well before scoring only five points in the same span. Finally, junior Molly Ernst (Louisville, Ky.) netted a jumper from the left elbow to break the ice of the BU rim, after the team went 0-for-6 to start. Senior Alyssa Visbeen (Franklin, Tenn.) pushed for back-to-back lay-ins and sophomore Torie Vaught (Maryville, Tenn.) followed with a jumper in the lane to give Belmont its first lead of the night, 8-7. Suddenly, BU fell silent from the hardwood.
Tennessee Tech went on to score 10 unanswered points to go up, 17-8, before the Bruin bench called a timeout to regroup. Out of the brief break, Ernst drilled a triple from the right corner to finally snap the nearly five minute icy spell with 8:10 on the clock. Belmont continued hacking away at the Golden Eagle lead with baskets coming from Vaught and senior Katie Brooks (Maryville, Tenn.) to move as close as six, 21-15, with just over five and a half minutes left in the half. Unfortunately, BU was halted by another four minute scoring drought. However, strong defense in the waning minutes kept the Golden Eagles from adding more than three more points from the floor. Belmont closed the half with Vaught and Ernst hitting 3-of-4 at the charity stripe to go into the break down by eight, 26-18.
When the teams returned from the locker rooms, the Bruins were red hot on both sides of the ball. Stringent defense opened the door for back-to-back turnovers that resulted in consecutive backdoor layups by sophomore Katie Carroll (Lilburn, Ga.). Ernst went on to cap the team's explosive effort with a three pointer from the corner to move Belmont to within three, 28-25.
The Golden Eagles, after pushing to go up by eight, seemed to underestimate the skills of current OVC Newcomer of the Week redshirt sophomore Jordyn Luffman (Lawrenceburg, Tenn.), leaving her wide open for a trey from the right side of the arc and on the very next possession, allowing her to drive uncontested to the rim to make it a three-point game, 33-30, with 12:36 remaining in the game. A stunned TTU bench called a timeout in hopes of slowing the hot hands of the Bruins and perhaps jumpstarting its own team that had fallen into a three minute icy spell.
Tennessee Tech was able to rebound and built an eight-point lead but the Bruins continued to battle and by the eight minute mark, BU had closed the gap to five, 40-35. Two minutes later, a pair at the line by senior Jordan Coleman (Orlando, Fla.) followed by a backdoor tip-in by Vaught, closed the gap to one, 42-41. Unfortunately, TTU was able to quickly rebuild a six point lead using inside work by the 3:39 mark. The Bruins made one final push to take the contest as the clock moved into its final 120 seconds.
Two pull up jumpers by Brooks at the top of the key and sophomore Adrienne Tarrence forced a turnover on the other end to keep the momentum firmly in BU's direction. Brooks went on to nail two crucial free throws to knot the game at 51 with 1:51 left on the clock. TTU used being in the double bonus to its advantage and drew a foul but T'Keyah Williams was only able to hit one of her two at the line 30 seconds later. That narrow advantage would prove to be just enough to keep victory out of reach for Belmont. Luffman attempted a trey at the buzzer but it bounced in and off the back of the rim and the Bruins were edged by the final score of 58-52.
Tennessee Tech shot 38.1 percent from the floor, 30 percent from three-point range and 79.3 percent from the free-throw line. The Golden Eagles held the advantage in rebounds, 38-27, and steals, 6-5.
TTU saw three players reach double digits led by Diamond Henderson's game-high 17 points. T'Keyah Williams and Jala Harris added 13 and 12 points, respectively. Molly Heady led the team in rebounds with a total of seven.
Belmont shot 37.3 percent from the hardwood, 30.8 percent from behind the three-point arc and 62.5 percent from the charity stripe. The Bruins held the advantage in assists, 11-8, and blocks, 2-1.
Ernst and Luffman led the Bruins with 10 points apiece. Brooks finished with eight points. Coleman pulled down a team-high six rebounds. Sophomore Adrienne Tarrence (Bowling Green, Ky.) and Brooks recorded one block each.
Belmont returns to action on Monday afternoon to complete its first week of OVC road action. The Bruins travel to Jacksonville State for a contest slated to tip-off at 3 p.m. The contest can be seen live on the OVC Digital Network and heard live via the internet on the Bruin Sports Network. Live stats and a Twitter feed (@BelmontWBB) will also be available.