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Oh, so close

Oh, so close

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CLEMSON, S.C. – Despite scoring just 20 points in the first half, despite an uncharacteristically off shooting night from its typical leading scorer and despite two starters fouling out, the Belmont women's basketball team found itself down only a single basket and with the ball in the waning seconds at Clemson's Littlejohn Coliseum. Time just ran out on the comeback effort.

The Bruins' potential game-tying shot was off the mark and Clemson held on for a 65-62 victory Sunday. The non-conference loss drops Belmont to 4-3 on the young season.

The first half provided little scoring room on either side until the Tigers (5-3) began to capitalize on forced turnovers in the second quarter. A 13-13 tie after one frame turned into a 33-20 deficit for Belmont at the half. Poor shooting didn't carry over to the second half however.

Sunday provided more proof as the Bruins exploded for 25 points in the third quarter and 42 in all in the second half. After trailing by as many as 15 early in the third, Belmont clawed back within single digits headed to the fourth on the strength of its 3-point shooting. The visitors shot 5-of-6 from three in the quarter with senior guard Jenny Roy (Brentwood, Tenn.) hitting all three of her attempts from downtown.

"Coach Bart always says the teams that come together during adversity are going to be the teams that succeed," said Belmont junior guard Maura Muensterman (Evansville, Ind.). "When we were in the locker room at halftime, yeah we were down, but we're good about staying positive because we're never out of it. I think we've proven that time and time again."

Roy set a career high with five made 3-pointers in all, part of a 17-point effort. Muensterman also finished with 17 total points and five 3-pointers.

The Bruins trimmed Clemson's lead to a single point with three minutes to play on two free throws from junior forward Maddie Wright (Chattanooga, Tenn.). Just before that Roy had hit another three, which followed a steal-and-score operation by freshman guard Macie Culbertson (Fall Branch, Tenn.).

Ball movement and perseverance can be credited for Sunday's sharp turnaround. The Bruins started taking advantage of a Clemson defense intensely focusing on Belmont senior guard Darby Maggard (Larwill, Ind.).

"We always talk about giving up a good shot for a great shot, moving the ball and finding the person that's open," said Roy, who added five assists, four rebounds and two steals. "It really does show our depth. It shows if one of us isn't having our best night, other people will pick us up. It's exciting and once we put it all together, it will be fun to watch what happens."

Clemson made just 5-of-12 free throws in the fourth quarter to prop the door open for the Bruins, including missing three straight in the final three seconds. But down by three points with 2.5 seconds left in the game, Belmont's play out of a timeout couldn't yield a quick open look and a well-defended shot clanged harmlessly off the rim.

The loss was Belmont's second in a row when paired with a home stumble against Toledo earlier in the week. It's the Bruins' first losing streak in more than two years, but the road defeat to an ACC squad provides plenty of teachable moments. 

"This is a big opportunity for growth. We dug a hole, but we got out of that hole and that's huge for us," Muensterman said. "We are really young and it's about taking steps forward each game. I think we took a step here."

Up Next: Belmont welcomes rival Lipscomb to the Curb Event Center for the annual Battle of the Boulevard game on Tuesday. Tipoff is at 5 p.m.