It was a story of turnovers as the Belmont women’s basketball team had its first Atlantic Sun loss with a 56-69 final score against Mercer, of whom first year coach Brittney Ezell simply said, “You have to give them a lot of credit.”
Cacy Burtnett scored her first 8 of 21 points overall for Belmont in the first three and a half minutes to give the Bruins an 8-5 lead.
With added field goals from Haley Nelson and Tristan Daniel at the 13:17 mark, the Bruins extended their lead 13-7.
Mercer was determined to bounce back with a 3-pointer from Keema Blakney and twos from Alex Phillips and Kendra Grant.
The defensive struggle continued as the Bruins and Bears were tied at 18 with nearly 7 minutes remaining in the half. It was a scoreless game for the next three minutes until Mercer was able to take the lead at the 4:52 mark to make the score 18-20.
The teams battled back and forth as a basket from Alyssa Visbeen and free throws from Tristan Daniel cut Mercer’s lead to one with 2:53 left in the half for a score of 22-23.
Freshman Molly Ernst sunk a three from the right side to give Belmont the lead going out of the half.
Sharmesia Smith began what would become Mercer’s explosive second half by tying the game at 25 apiece.
The Bears took a 7-0 run within the span of two minutes, giving Mercer a 30-25 lead at the 17-minute mark, setting the pace for the rest of the evening.
The combined efforts of Briana Williams and Britnee Hazel allowed Mercer to take their first double digit lead of the game with 13:15 on the clock to make the score 32-43.
Belmont made an attempt at an offensive rebound, led by a trey by Whitney Seals. Mercer’s lead was cut down to 6, at the 12:16 mark.
Burtnett hit a jump shot with 8:20 left to give Belmont 42 points, cutting Mercer’s lead to 4.
Whitney Seals sunk a two and Tristan Daniel hit two free throws to bring Belmont within one with 5:30 remaining.
With 3:47 left, Sharmesia Smith and Briana Williams counteracted Belmont’s offensive rebound with 2 field goals and 2 foul shots to give them a 54-48 lead.
Burtnett hit her fifth three-pointer of the night with 3:10 left to cut the lead back to 3. Senior Guard Shaunda Strayhorn cut it to a 2-point game with a three of her own a minute later.
Both Nelson and Strayhorn fouled out for Belmont with almost a minute on the clock.
“We had too many turnovers and just didn’t take care of the ball,” Strayhorn said.
Despite today’s loss, Coach Brittney Ezell says she’s “gonna have to look ahead” and still make sure the team plays with passion.
She she is appreciative of the crowd the team has had at the last few games, saying they’re the “largest they’ve been in three years.”
The Lady Bruins play on the road at 2 p.m. Sunday at UAB. Their next home game is at 5 p.m. Tuesday against Tennessee State.