Midway through the 2020-21 college basketball season, Belmont women’s basketball is looking for some sense of normalcy in a season made surreal by the pandemic.
“It’s been a difficult season for all of us as there have been so many interruptions and unknowns,” head coach Bart Brooks said. “We are working hard to eliminate all the uncertainties and just focus our efforts on the things we can control.”
At this point in the season, Belmont holds a 4-2 record overall and are 1-0 in the Ohio Valley Conference. However, the Bruins haven’t played a game since Dec. 19, due to COVID-19 complications. And Belmont remains the only team in the OVC to play less than four games in the conference to this point in the season.
“We are taking things one day at a time, and right now our focus is on getting our team back and healthy,” Brooks said.
“It’s been a physically exhausting stretch and we have a long road back to regain our rhythm from the non-conference season, but we are hopeful that we can continue improving daily and be in a position to make a run at the end of the year.”
In games where Belmont could field a team this season, two outstanding freshmen have led the way in the scoring department for the team.
In five games played – four as a starter – guard Tuti Jones is averaging 12.2 points per game while shooting 48 percent from the floor and 46 percent from three-point range. And she isn’t solely an offensive star. On the defensive end, she’s collected 23 steals in five games, averaging a whopping 4.6 steals per contest.
Starting alongside Jones is another star freshman Destinee Wells. Through six games, she is averaging 11.5 points per game on 41 percent field goal shooting. Wells is also shooting 38 percent from three on 2.2 attempts per game. However, scoring isn’t the only thing she adds to Belmont’s offense. She is averaging 4.5 assists per game and has provided a needed offensive spark for the Bruins.
Brooks cited that, as a coach, he has been impressed with the level of maturity the freshman class is playing with to start the season.
“We have some very talented freshmen on our roster and through our first six games they have proven capable of making some positive contributions on the floor for our team,” He said. “We are obviously excited about how our freshmen fit together with our returners and I’m hopeful that with more games and time together, that connection will grow stronger.”
Still, he gives credit to Belmont’s veterans for steering the ship that has allowed the freshman to shine.
“Our returning players have done a great job of embracing our new players and helping them find their footing in a very difficult and fragmented season as we deal with interruptions from COVID,” he said.
Key team leaders in junior guard Jamilyn Kinney and Junior forward Conley Chinn have provided stability amidst the uncertainty of the season.
Chinn sits third on the team in scoring, averaging 9.3 points per game. Her best game of the season came against Auburn University. She totaled 21 points, six rebounds and three assists in 28 minutes.
Kinney serves as the veteran guard on the team for Belmont. And in her six starts, she is second on the team in total assists, 24. She is fifth on the team in points per game (7.5). And she is third on the team in total steals, 15. 11 of her steal came against Auburn, the most in program history for Belmont.
Ultimately, the unorthodox season for Belmont looks as though it is finally turning around.
After a series of postponements, Belmont plans to play in its second conference game at the Curb Event Center against Murray State, according to Belmont Athletics’ latest schedule change announcement.
For coach Brooks and his team, finally getting back out on the court is all they needed. So much of this season has been out of the team’s control; what matters now is making the most of the season the team has left.
“I just want our players to be healthy and safe and to have a great experience competing together,” Brooks said.
“We can’t control so many factors this year, so we are just focused on the things we can control and making the most of the opportunities we are given.”
This article written by Ian Kayanja.