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Belmont wins OVC opener

In its first game in the Ohio Valley Conference, the Belmont women’s basketball team came back to defeat SIU Edwardsville 66-52 Saturday night at the Curb Event Center.

“It was nerve-wracking to be honest,” coach Brittney Ezell said. “I normally don’t get nervous, and the coaching staff doesn’t get nervous. We were excited like the kids were. They were ready to get it started.”

Senior guard Katie Brooks led the Bruins in scoring with a career-high 22 points and shot 75 percent from the field. Jordan Coleman also had her fourth double-double of the season with 14 points and 11 rebounds.

“We really wanted this win and to start off on a good note in conference play,” Coleman said. Everyone focused and I tried to do that.”

Belmont opened the game on a 7-2 run with a pair of jumpers from Brooks and a three from Alyssa Visbeen. After a couple of layups from Jordyn Luffman, the Bruins extended their lead to 13-6.

SIUE pushed forward as the half went on attempting to trim down Belmont’s advantage. With less than three minutes left, the Cougars took their first lead of the game off a jumper by guard Courtney Kenner.

After a 9-0 run to end the half, SIUE led Belmont 31-28. The Cougars then came out strong to start the second half jumping to their biggest lead of the night, 38-32.

However, Belmont would not go down without a fight and rallied behind Coleman, Luffman and Adrienne Tarrence. The Bruins built a 47-42 lead after Tarrence scored a layup off a steal with nine minutes remaining.

After the Cougars regained a 49-47 lead, Luffman nailed a 3-pointer to put the Bruins in front with 5:08 to go, giving them the lead for the rest of the game.

“What we did on offense was try to push the ball because we felt like we were more conditioned than they were,” Coleman said. “We felt like every time we got the ball out of bounds, we conditioned and pushed it every single time.”

Ezell said switching to a zone defense was the biggest difference for the Bruins during the second half.

“They don’t shoot the ball with a great percentage from the outside, so we were really playing the odds at that point,” she said. “I thought our kids did a really good job of responding.”

The Bruins held the Cougars to only 28 percent shooting from the field and 11 percent from three point arc during the second half. Belmont improved its shooting percentage from the first half to almost 54 percent in the second half.

“We rebounded well, attacked the glass on the offensive end with Jordan Coleman and Jordan Luffman. Adrienne Tarrence and Katie Brooks had a big day,” Ezell said. “So it was really good to come out and perform like that on both ends.”

Belmont returns to action at the Curb Event Center Monday afternoon for a New Year’s Eve conference matchup against Southeastern Missouri. Tip-off is set for 2 p.m.

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