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Belmont women’s basketball survives season opening scare vs. Chattanooga

It was a helluva game. In front of a raucous home crowd, Belmont women’s basketball notched a 56-54 come from behind victory in the final seconds over the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga Wednesday night.  For the Bruins, it was a chance to make a statement after a devastating 70-67 loss to the University of Tennessee in the Round of 32 of March Madness. But Belmont’s offense seemed out of sync for the first three quarters and felt like a victory wasn’t within reach. Then everything clicked for the Bruins.

Destinee Wells scores a team-high 20 points in Belmont's season opener vs. Chattanooga. Paris Avery/Belmont Vision

Chattanooga led for most of the game, including ending the first quarter 19-11 due to nine points from Mocs star Yazz Wazeerud-Din. Every time Belmont scored, she had an answer.   The second and third quarters mirrored the likes of the first. Chattanooga took advantage of Belmont’s lack of offense to take a 45-31 lead entering the fourth quarter. But due to a stifling defense and improved offense, Belmont slowly chipped away at Chattanooga’s lead. Junior Tuti Jones led the way on defense.  “I wasn’t making a lot of shots on offense,” Jones said. “So, I tried to help my teammates out wherever I could. It was on defense.”  The physicality on defense resulted in more fouls, meaning the game would be decided at the free throw line. Attempting to disrupt, the Belmont crowd was deafening anytime Chattanooga was at the line. For the home team, the crowd was completely silent, allowing the players to focus. It seemed to work. Belmont prevailed down the stretch due to its 11-13 performance from the free throw line in the fourth quarter, including Wells’ two crucial free throws to give Belmont the 55-54 lead. Wells scored 13 of her team-high 20 points in the fourth quarter despite struggling from the field for most of the game.   Another free throw by graduate student Sydni Harvey with 16 seconds remaining extended the lead 56-54.

When the buzzer sounded, a Chattanooga layup fell just short, cementing the win for the Bruins.

Most of the crowd erupted, amazed at the comeback they just witnessed.

Head coach Bart Brooks admitted that it was not the performance many expected from his team, but he was pleased with the resiliency they showed in the end.  “I don’t know if I’ve ever coached a team that’s gone 2-17 in a quarter. That’s a pretty low place to be as an offense. I think everyone on the outside expected us to just walk in here and win by 30,” Brooks said. “But I was really impressed with how our team responded to that. We were thrown major adversity today, and I’m thrilled that we answered that challenge.”  Next up, Belmont will welcome No. 7 ranked University of Louisville to the Curb Event Center on Sunday at 4 p.m.  Brooks knows that his team must perform better against the nationally recognized Cardinals.    “Louisville has a chance to be in the final game, and that’s a beautiful thing that they get to play in our gym,” Brooks said. “It’s just a matter of us being in a good place and ready for the challenge that is Louisville.”  For now, fans are wondering if the team can live up to expectations. And if Wednesday's season opener was any indication, Belmont could be in for a storybook season. This article was written by Ty Wellemeyer

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