After a slow start for Belmont, it was freshman guard Destinee Wells that paced the Bruins in a 69-57 win against Southern Illinois University Edwardsville at the Curb Event Center on Saturday afternoon.
Wells finished the game leading all scorers with 23 points on 8-16 shooting from the field and 3-5 from three-point range. Her 23 points mark a career-high for the young guard, as she kept Belmont in the game with her shot-creation and offensive distribution down the stretch.
“Wells played a lot of minutes,” head coach Bart Brooks said after the game. “She had a lot of responsibility on her shoulders with Jamilyn [Kinney] being out for long stretches in the second half. I thought she did a great job and she made a lot of big-time plays for us.”
Belmont improves to 6-3 on the year, 3-1 in Ohio Valley Conference play. And with the win today, the Bruins finish a grueling stretch of three games in five days.
“It was a war of attrition. We had a lot of people play for a lot of minutes,” Brooks said. “We are not totally connected yet, but we are working our way through it. I am really proud of the way we responded playing three games in five days.”
The game started with Belmont playing a step slow both on offense and defense. On offense, the Bruins missed their first five shots of the contest. Meanwhile, SIUE started the game with a quick 9-0 run.
Wells scored the first basket for Belmont at the six-minute mark in the first quarter, it was a three-pointer over the outstretched hands of the defense. This sparked a quick offensive flurry for Belmont, as sophomore guard Nikki Baird knocked down two threes.
And junior guard Jamilyn Kinney made a tough layup to tie the game at 11-11, with two minutes left in the first frame of action.
Belmont closed the quarter out by forcing SIUE into eight turnovers and went into the second quarter leading the game 16-13.
“I thought we did a good job of getting our hands active and getting out in transition to get some easy baskets,” Brooks said.
In the second quarter, it was more of the same for Wells, as she found angles and avenues to score the ball for the Bruins. In seven minutes she scored seven points, hitting a three-pointer and going 2-4 from the field.
Her aggressive play ignited the Bruin offense. And as a team, Belmont shot 56 percent from the floor and 50 percent from three in the second quarter. Heading into halftime the Bruins nursed a 40-28 lead, quickly turning things around after the rocky start.
SIUE came out of halftime fast, cutting the lead to five, 40-35, and Belmont was forced to take a timeout. Out of the timeout, Belmont played a 2-2-1 zone press, which held SIUE scoreless for two minutes during the third quarter.
Junior forward Conley Chinn found her rhythm during the third quarter scoring eight points on 3-5 shooting. She traded baskets with SIUE’s sophomore forward Mikayla Kinnard who scored six of her team-high 17 during the quarter. By the end of the frame, Belmont led the game 54-45.
In the fourth quarter, it was both freshman stars Tuti Jones and Wells who closed things out for the Bruins. The two combined for 11 points in the quarter, shooting 4-8 from the field and 2-4 from three.
Belmont’s defense played a central role in digging out of an early deficit on Saturday. The team totaled 15 steals and forced SIUE into 23 total turnovers. And the game marked the seventh-straight game Belmont tallied double-digit steals.
“We are trying to rediscover our identity as a team, but I am proud of our effort for sure,” Brooks said.
Next up for Belmont is the University of Tennessee at Martin Skyhawks in an away game at Skyhawks arena. Tip-off is slated for Tuesday at 5 p.m.
This article written by Ian Kayanja.