NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Behind tough play and timely scoring runs the Belmont University women's basketball team won its fourth-straight Thursday evening with a hard-fought 65-46 victory over Austin Peay State University inside the Curb Event Center. Sophomore forward Madison Bartley tallied a game-high 18 points and the Bruins (8-5, 4-0 OVC) outscored the visiting Governors (9-5, 2-2 OVC) 35-23 in the second half of the Ohio Valley Conference home contest.
Forcing 21 Austin Peay turnovers and matching its season high with 14 steals, Belmont racked up 25 points off the Governors' miscues and overcame a 32-16 differential in bench points.
Despite lackluster shooting by both squads, the Bruins scored 20 points on 46.2 percent (6-of-13) shooting across the final 10 minutes and limited Austin Peay to only three made field goals in the fourth quarter.
A nifty find by sophomore guard Destinee Wells in the post gave Belmont an early 8-2 lead just under three minutes in and Bartley scored seven of the Bruins' first 10 points of the game. A three-pointer by sophomore guard Tuti Jones capped an impressive 11-0 Belmont run and made it a 13-2 affair after five-and-a-half minutes of play.
A lengthy scoring drought that lasted for the remainder of the first quarter and 10 unanswered Governor points got the visitors within one at 13-12 early in the second period. Five-straight points from Bartley put the Bruins up 18-12 two-and-a-half minutes into the second quarter but Austin Peay once again worked its way back into the game. A pair of free throws by the Governors' Yamia Johnson knotted things at 23 with just under three minutes remaining in the half.
A three by sophomore guard Blair Schoenwald and four points from freshman forward Tessa Miller allowed Belmont to close the first half on a 7-0 run. The Bruins took a 30-23 lead into the break after shooting 38.5 percent (10-of-26) across the opening 20 minutes. Austin Peay was held to 1-for-4 from distance in the first half but went 8-for-11 at the free-throw line.
Scoring the first four points of the second half the Governors got back within three at 30-27, but from there on it was all Belmont. A 9-0 Bruin stretch capped by a Bartley jumper gave Belmont a commanding 39-27 lead midway through the third quarter. Jones nailed a corner trey right before the end of the third, putting the Bruins in front by 13 at 45-32 heading into the final quarter.
After Austin Peay got within nine at 48-39, Belmont went on a game-clinching 15-2 run over four-and-a-half minutes of play sparked by Schoenwald's third three-pointer of the evening. Wells completed the convincing stretch with a traditional three-point play, giving the Bruins their largest lead of the contest at 63-41 with 2:12 to go. Freshman guard Kilyn McGuff scored on a layup in the final minute.
Belmont finished 38.9 percent (21-of-54) from the field and connected on nine threes, while limiting the Governors to 33.3 percent (14-of-42) shooting and 2-for-12 (16.7 percent) from beyond the arc. Austin Peay entered the game ranked among the top 25 nationally in field goal percentage (45.9 percent).
Wells continued her streak of scoring in double figures (27 games), notching 14 points and distributing a game-best six assists. Bartley went 6-for-9 from the floor and was 5-for-8 at the foul line. Jones also reached double figures, scoring 11 to go along with a season-high seven rebounds and game-high four steals. Schoenwald finished with a career-high tying nine points for the third time this season.
The Governors got a double-double from Johnson, who scored 15 points on 11-for-13 shooting at the free-throw line and grabbed a game-high 10 rebounds.
The Bruins close out their three-game homestand Saturday when Belmont hosts Murray State at 2 p.m. The Music City conference matchup will be broadcast on ESPN+. Playing three games across five days, the Bruins travel to defending OVC regular season champion the University of Tennessee at Martin Monday for a Martin Luther King Jr. Day matinee at 2 p.m.
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