• Lillie Burke

Belmont WBB takes charge with homecoming win, now No. 1 seed for tournament play

Women’s basketball kicked off homecoming night in style with a Tiger-taming victory, exploding past Tennessee State University for an 82-44 win Saturday.

The Bruins may have claimed the Ohio Valley Conference regular-season title earlier in the week, but with one final opportunity to showcase their dominance in the Curb Event Center, the women came to win.

The Bruins were locked in from the tipoff, jumping out to a quick lead and keeping their momentum up throughout the night to stomp all over crosstown rival TSU.

Graduating seniors Jamilyn Kinney, Conley Chinn, Macie Culbertson and Allison Luly were all honored during an emotional pregame ceremony, celebrating their final game at the Curb.

After the well-wishes, Belmont took to the court for Chinn to knock down the game’s opening basket. From there, the Bruin scored eight more points in the blink of an eye to lead 11-2 and force a Tiger timeout.

Belmont head coach Bart Brooks praised his team for starting off the game fast.

“I thought we started off the game with great energy, edge and focus,” Brooks said. “It was nice to see the ball go through the basket early, and that gave us a bit of momentum.”

Belmont rode that early momentum for the remainder of the first quarter, highlighted by 3-pointers from sophomore guards Destinee Wells, Tuti Jones and Blair Schoenwald.

On top of that, Chinn and Kinney both pitched in several additional layups, contributing to the Bruins 28-12 lead by the end of the first quarter.

Senior guard Jamilyn Kinney looks for her move against TSU at Saturday’s homecoming game in the Curb Event Center, Feb. 26, 2022. Jessica Mattsson / Belmont Vision

Belmont got even hotter in the second.

With baskets from sophomore Madison Bartley, Kinney and Wells, the Bruins began the quarter on an 8-0 run. The good fortune continued for the rest of the quarter, and Belmont led comfortably at halftime 44-26.

Coming out of the half, Belmont continued its show, led by Wells, who knocked down several jumpers and allowed her teammates to get involved.

“She’s just a really good player. She doesn’t have a lot of weaknesses,” Brooks said of Wells, who finished with 16 points and six assists.

“She’s so humble, and that makes her a great teammate, I can’t say enough good things about her,” said Brooks.

Leading 62-36 after three, the fourth quarter was all about the Bruin seniors.

Though Luly and Culbertson stayed off the floor due to injury, they cheered on Chinn and Kinney, giving fans in the Curb something to remember for the final quarter.

With eight minutes to go, Chinn converted a flashy “and one,” energizing the crowd and putting the Bruins up by 32 points.

Later in the fourth, Chinn got the ball at the 3-point line and connected for her last basket, pushing her total to 17 points for the night. Afterward, the senior received a standing ovation while she exited the floor.

With just over a minute left, Kinney nailed a 3-point jumper of her own before checking out. She finished the game with seven points and seven assists, congratulated by her coaches, teammates and fans in the same fashion as fellow senior Chinn.

“For those two players to walk off the floor after making threes at the end was pretty cool to see,” Brooks said. “Overall, it was a special night for all of our seniors.”

Clinching their seventh consecutive 20-win season, the Bruins will look to the OVC Tournament next — where they will be the No. 1-seeded squad.

Brooks is looking forward to making the most out of his last trip to the Ford Center in Evansville, Indiana, before he and his team leave the OVC in the summer/

“We’re playing our best basketball of the season right now, and I think we’ve got a shot to make some noise,” Brooks said. “The best teams play their best when it matters the most, and we’re moving in that direction.”

As for the upcoming conference transition, the Bruins aren’t even thinking about it right now.

“We’re excited for the new opportunity, it’s going to be a great challenge, but we’ve got a lot of business to take care of where we’re at,” Brooks said.

PHOTO: The Belmont women receive the hardware honoring their OVC Championship title, presented to them by Belmont Vice President, Director of Athletics Scott Corley at the homecoming game in the Curb Event Center, Feb. 26, 2022. Jessica Mattsson / Belmont Vision

This article was written by Landen Secrest. Contributory writing and reporting by Reyna Galvez.

#homecoming2022 #seniornight #BelmontAthletics202122 #WBB202122 #TennesseeStateUniversity #CurbEventCenter

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