Updated: Sep 28, 2022
The name of the game was simple for Belmont in its 54-50 win over Austin Peay State University in the opening round of the Ohio Valley Conference Tournament: survive and advance.
“It was a great win,” freshman guard Destinee Wells said. “We just keep telling ourselves to survive and advance.”
Belmont barely survived a first-round scare from the seventh-seeded Governors as the contest came down to key moments at the end of the second and fourth quarter, where the Bruins simply made more winning plays.
“There was a lot of talk from [Jamilyn Kinney] and [Conley Chinn] to keep pushing and keep grinding out this win,” Wells said. “We had to play through the adversity.”
With the Bruins leading 22-10 halfway through the second quarter, the game looked well on its way to a blowout outcome in Belmont’s favor. However, that quickly changed as Austin Peay put together a 17-2 run to close out the second frame. And by halftime, the Governors held a 24-27 lead.
Head coach Bart Brooks heading into the matchup knew that Austin Peay was capable of an offensive explosion like the one seen in the second quarter, stating earlier this week that he would “need to make adjustments on the fly.”
At halftime, the only adjustment he made was to his team’s mindset.
“It wasn’t a whole lot of x’s and o’s. It was so much more about mindset and approach,” Brooks said. “I just felt like we were being out-toughed. They were getting to lose balls. They were playing with more pace. When they picked up their energy we didn’t match it. That is what led to that 17-2 run.
“…Today it boiled down to toughness and who is going to be the tougher team and credit to our players they found a way to gut it out at the end.”
By the end of the third quarter, Belmont held the lead 39-37. But again, the Bruins weren’t out of the woods just yet. After scoring 12 points to open the fourth quarter, Belmont’s offense didn’t record a single made field goal in the final five minutes of Wednesday’s game.
Instead, the Bruins relied on Austin Peay’s aggressiveness to draw fouls and get to the free-throw line down the stretch, making 7-11 free throws in the final five minutes.
“We were in a place offensively, where we were struggling to find a rhythm. But we knew we could take advantage of some matchups,” Brooks said. “We did a good job getting to the free-throw line. They were aggressive all day and that was something we thought we could take advantage of. That made up for us not making shots.”
In the game, the Bruins shot 39 percent from the field and nine percent from the three. If not for the 15 total made free throws the score could easily have flipped in Austin Peay’s favor.
“Austin Peay put a lot of pressure on us,” Brooks said. “But I thought we were just as good.”
The leading point-scorer for the Bruins was Wells who tallied 23 points on 17 shots. The second leading scorers for Belmont were junior forward Conley Chinn and freshman forward Madison Bartley who tallied eight points each.
Belmont’s offense didn’t have its best game, but it did enough to win in round one. The Bruins survived, so now they advance. Belmont’s next game is Friday at 3:30 p.m in the OVC Tournament semifinal.
“We are just grateful,” Brooks said. “I have so much respect for the young ladies in this locker room and what they have given to the team this season.”
This article written by Ian Kayanja. Photo courtesy of OVC.