Women's Basketball Christens Ezell Era with Win over Winthrop
ROCK HILL, S.C. – The Belmont women's basketball team (1-0) turned on the afterburners down the stretch and pulled out a win over Winthrop (0-1) on the road Friday night. The Bruins came from behind the defeat the Eagles, 59-50, and advance to the winner's game at the Winthrop Classic.
The Eagles jumped out to an early 8-0 lead behind back-to-back three pointers from Lyons before junior Tristan Daniel (Waynesboro, Tenn.) netted a jumper in the paint at the 16:20 mark to finally get the Bruins on the board. BU pulled the long range trigger seven times in the first eight minutes but was unable to break the ice. The Belmont basketball appeared to have a lid on it and the team was ice cold from the floor for nearly four minutes before the team exploded offensively. Finally, a triple by junior Cacy Burtnett (Cleveland, Tenn.) opened the door for a 7-0 run to put the Bruins on top for the first time, 16-15, with just over eight minutes left in the half. Belmont ramped up its defensive intensity and halted numerous scoring opportunities down the stretch for Winthrop to keep them within striking distance.
Spotty shooting plagued BU in the waning minutes of the half as the team could only tally three points by the two minute mark, after a free throw by Daniel and a bucket from senior Tereva Moore (Memphis, Tenn.). Winthrop was unable to fully capitalize and the Bruins continued to keep the score close down to the final 60 seconds of play. A trey from the top of the arc by the Eagles with one tick left on the clock sent the teams to the locker rooms
After the break, Daniel quickly added five to the Bruins' tally and moved the team to within a basket, 29-27, by the 17:36 mark. Four minutes later, Winthrop had blown its lead up to seven but a pair at the charity stripe by Burtnett followed by back-to-back triples by rookie Molly Ernst (Louisville, Ky.) put Belmont on top, 36-35. A stunned Eagle bench called a timeout hoping to slow the streaking Bruins but BU was able to force a shot clock violation on the very next possession.
A three pointer from sophomore Alyssa Visbeen (Franklin, Tenn.) followed by a floater by senior Rachel Swisher (Franklin, Ky.) put Belmont on top, 41-39, with just under nine minutes remaining in regulation. The game suddenly turned into the Tristan Daniel show as she went on her own 7-2 run to put the Bruins on top, 48-44, with just over four and half minutes left on the clock. BU kept piling on the points and used the clock strategically. Senior Shaunda Strayhorn (Dyersburg, Tenn.) nailed her first three of the night with 3:42 left in the contest and just one minute later, completed a three-point play to put the team on top by seven, 54-47. A trio of shots at the charity stripe by Moore and Ernst gave Belmont its first double digit advantage of the night, 57-47, with just 21 ticks remaining on the clock. Lacey Lyons returned to her same hot spot outside the arc to hit her fifth trey of the night but it was too little to late as the Bruins, who were already in the double bonus, picked up two more points at the line from Burtnett.
"(It was a) complete team effort tonight," said Head Coach Brittney Ezell. "We had contributions from everybody and I don't mean just scoring. We were defensively very, very good tonight. This was one of those games you had to grind it out and be poised and disciplined down the stretch. I was pleased with game management and our understanding of time and the score."
"I would definitely point to Shaunda Strayhorn, Tristan Daniel and Molly Ernst in terms of going above and beyond expectations tonight. All three performed at a high level and I hope it continues throughout the year."
Belmont was led in scoring by Daniel, who netted 17 points. Ernst added 14 points in the effort in her collegiate debut. Moore pulled down a game-high nine rebounds in the win.
Belmont returns to action on Sunday on day two of the Winthrop Classic. The Bruins take on first-time opponent Central Michigan beginning at 12pm CT. Live stats and audio of the game will be available.