Updated: Sep 24
An abject shooting display against Indiana University ended Belmont’s Cinderella run in the NCAA Division I Women’s Tournament Round of 32 with a 70-48 loss Wednesday afternoon in Bill Greehey Arena.
For Belmont, it came down to a poor offensive night at the wrong time of the season, as the Bruins shot a frigid 31 percent from the floor and 19 percent from three against a ferocious Hoosiers defense that suffocated the usually efficient Belmont offensive attack.
“Credit to Indiana, they played well today. And they did what they had to do. Defensively they are very good and made the plays they needed to make,” Belmont head coach Bart Brooks said after the game.
“I thought there were stretches where we got pretty good shots, but we just didn’t see them go down, and I think that led to some frustration and maybe added to the next shot not going down. They are really good defensively.”
In the loss, Belmont was held to its lowest point total of the season. It was also held to one of the lowest three-point percentages of the year. And the Bruins were held to one of the worst field goal percentages of the season.
“It’s a function of being a little out of rhythm,” Brooks said. “The shots we got early were probably a little bit rushed, and a little bit more guarded than we’d like. And I think that led to missing some open shots later because we just weren’t in the right rhythm that you need to be … as the game wore on, we just never found that rhythm.”
The difficult shooting night was apparent after a first half that saw Belmont shoot 8-33 from the floor and 0-13 from three.
SAN ANTONIO, TX – MARCH 24: INDIANA VS BELMONT during the Division I Women’s Basketball Tournament held at Bill Greehey Arena on March 24, 2021 in San Antonio, TX. (Photo by Scott Wachter/NCAA Photos)
And at the half, the typically steady freshman Destinee Wells scored only eight points on 3-10 shooting. The only other player to convert on multiple shots at that point in the game was sophomore Cam Browning, who tallied six points on 3-6 from the field by halftime.
She was playing extended minutes due to foul trouble involving junior and freshman forwards Allison Luly and Madison Bartley.
Freshman Tuti Jones — one of two double-digit scorers for the Bruins — attributed the difficult shooting night to both Indiana’s stout defense, and simply missing open shots.
“It was half and half,” Jones said. “We didn’t have our best shooting game … They played some great defense and we missed some shots.”
In the third quarter, the Belmont offense seemed to find some life as Jones hit a catch-and-shoot three off of an offensive rebound to bring Belmont within nine. However, the Hoosiers quickly answered with scores of their own from junior and senior guards Grace Berger and Ali Patberg.
Belmont spanned eight minutes without making another three-pointer, until it was Jones again, this time from five-feet behind the line. But by then, it was too-little-too-late as Indiana nursed a double-digit lead the rest of the game.
Wells ended with a team-high 16 points, but the Hoosier defense took her out of her usual cadence as she shot 7-20 on the game.
Brooks admitted that Belmont isn’t the only team to struggle against Indiana’s defense, but he’d hoped that eventually, the Bruins would find some sort of offensive rhythm in the game. His hopes didn’t come to fruition, and he places the blame on himself as a head coach.
“It’s on me to have our players in better spots and have them get to a place of better execution,” he said.
Wednesday afternoon was arguably one of Belmont’s worst offensive games of the season. But still, Brooks does not want those 40 minutes on the floor to define the entirety of what this team accomplished all season.
Through adversity, Belmont found triumph: winning the Ohio Valley Conference Championship. Against all odds, Belmont beat Gonzaga University, a team not many experts gave them a chance against. And though the Bruins fizzled out offensively in the Round of 32, those accomplishments, according to Brooks, are something to be proud of.
“I just talked to a group of young women in the locker room that I am unbelievably impressed with and blessed to coach,” he said.
“What those young ladies in that locker room did this year won’t be defined by a 40-minute basketball game. It will be defined by what they did, and the journey they went through to get here.”
This article written by Ian Kayanja. Photos courtesy of NCAA.