Belmont women’s basketball entered Sunday afternoon’s matchup vs. Indiana State University with hopes to extend their win streak. As the Bruins inched closer to the top of the Missouri Valley Conference standings, fans inside the Curb Event Center were awaiting the next magic moment to occur. Junior Destinee Wells provided the latest one for Belmont’s red-hot women’s squad. In an 81-69 victory over the Sycamores, the floor general achieved a career high 35 points, becoming the first Bruin to do so in 18 years. But the game didn’t start off in Belmont’s favor. Early on, Indiana State guard Del’Janae Williams scored her team’s first nine points, while the Bruins experienced foul trouble, stalling their offense. “Coach Killinger had them in a really good place and they battled us,” said head coach Bart Brooks. Luckily, Wells was more than willing to defend her home territory. The MVC Preseason Player of the Year just flat out took over the game. “I was just taking what the defense gave me,” said Wells. What did the defense give her? During drives to the basket, she stormed into the paint and floated tough layups up and over multiple defenders. On others, she opted for push shots or pull up jumpers off screens. If nothing was there, Wells precisely found her teammates in order to spread the wealth. That drive and kick mentality helped Belmont drain 11 threes on 45% shooting. Sophomore Kilyn McGuff led the team by shooting 3-4 from deep, with graduate student Sydni Harvey and sophomore Kendal Cheesman both contributing by shooting 2-4 from beyond the arc. On the defensive end, both teams struggled to protect their baskets in the first half. While Indiana State seemed helpless defending Wells, a junior Madison Bartley pick and roll helped the Bruins rack up 17 team fouls. As senior Nikki Baird fouled out, sophomore Tessa Miller and Bartley eventually found themselves with four fouls. Establishing an interior defensive presence proved to be a challenge from the jump, resulting in the Sycamores sticking in the game throughout the first half. After narrowly leading the half 39-33, and with both teams struggling to score, Belmont broke open the game with a 12-point run deep in the third quarter. Miller began the scoring stampede with back-to-back dump off layups assisted by Wells. Once those shots laid in, the punches started to roll for the Bruins. “It was good to see Tessa respond and then come through for us because we needed some easy baskets,” Brooks said when asked about Miller’s impact. As the dust settled in the third, Wells found herself with 27 points and the Bruins led 62-53 with a quarter of play left.
With some distance gained, and Indiana State’s offense becoming stagnant, the Bruins never looked back. Wells and the starting lineup left the floor with a standing ovation from the crowd, and the benches from both teams emptied out as Belmont cruised to victory. After a shaky start to the season brought on by a tough schedule and the acclimation of new additions, the Bruins have steadily proven that they belong in the MVC. With the win, Belmont improves to 15-10 with an 8-3 conference record. “We know when we’re at our best that we can compete with anybody in the conference.” said Wells. The Bruins will look to maintain their win streak on the road vs Southern Illinois University. If Sunday showed anything, it was an opportunity for the team to show its ability to persevere. “We didn’t play great in the first two quarters tonight and we still found a way to win,” Wells said. “That shows how tough we are.” – This article was written by Seth Thorpe