The Boulevard belongs to Belmont in the 75th showing of historic basketball rivalry
Belmont basketball emerged victorious Thursday night as the men’s and women’s teams triumphed over hometown rival Lipscomb University in the 75th Battle of the Boulevard.
Both the Bruins and the Bisons were well-represented in the stands; students and fans filled the Curb Event Center to near-full capacity, bringing energy and exhilaration to Belmont’s home court.
Among the standout Bruins of the night, guard Tuti Jones scored a career-high 29 points for the women’s team, helping to ring in a nail-biting 67-62 win at the 5 p.m. game.
Men’s guard JaCobi Wood also led the way with 17 points in the 7 p.m. game, and his team conquered the Bisons 94-65.
The landmark accomplishment of the night, however, didn’t come from any of Belmont players; instead the golden shot of the game sailed from the hands of freshman student Kwesi Mensah, who nailed a half-court shot at halftime to win $25,000 in tuition.
Players and students alike exploded into celebration, staying on their feet to watch the Bruins finish off the Bisons and reaffirm the home team’s claim to Belmont Boulevard.
Women’s team holds a razor-thin margin for the win
Jones’ performance played a huge role for the Bruins, who struggled to establish a rhythm early in the contest.
The sophomore downed 7 of her 9 shots from 3-point distance to keep the Bison’s within reach.
“I just wanted to do anything to help my teammates out,” she said.“They did a great job at finding me. … All that is a two-way street.”
Due to missed scoring opportunities and shaky defensive play, the first half was alarming for the Bruins, and the team trailed the Bisons 23-30 at halftime.
Women’s head coach Bart Brooks noticed the opponent’s strength.
“Credit to Lipscomb, I thought they played a very smart, competitive, tough game. They had a plan and they executed it well,” he said. “They just made things difficult for us. I think we made things difficult on ourselves for the first half as well, and they had a lot to do with that so credit to them.”
But the Bruins’ offense came alive in the second half after fifth-year senior Conley Chinn downed two consecutive 3-pointers early in the third quarter.
“Rivalry games, they all have a life of their own. And to be able to bounce back and have a second half, the start to the second half that we needed,” Brooks said.
Following Chinn, Jones shot three straight jumpers from three with assists from senior guard Jamilyn Kinney and sophomore forward Madison Bartley to give the Bruins a 4 point edge, 44-40.
The Bisons battled back, though, retaking the lead 48-49 at the end of the quarter.
Belmont sophomore guard Destinee Wells, who was relatively quiet in the first three quarters, proved crucial to the Bruins in the fourth, delivering a 3-point downer with 6 minutes left in the contest to retake the lead 55-54.
Belmont would not trail again for the remainder of play, but with a razor-thin margin, it was still anybody’s game.
When the game came down to the wire late in the fourth, it was Wells who nailed a jumper with 28 seconds left on the clock, a shot that proved to be the dagger.
“We all knew it was a close game, but that was a big shot, and if anybody is gonna make that, it’s Destinee,” Jones said.
No. 11 Destinee Wells takes two shots from the free-throw line during Belmont’s 67-62 win over the Lipscomb Bisons. Belmont Vision / Sarah Maninger.
Belmont successfully held on, earning the Bruins well-deserved bragging rights in the neighborhood.
“Proud of our effort, the fight that we showed. Still a long way to go, a lot to work on, but we got a lot to work with,” Brooks said.
Former Bruin Maddie Cook — now on the Bisons’ roster — was the life of the Lipscomb offense, banking 20 points in her 32 minutes off the bench.
The Bruins stand with a 4-3 record and will now travel to the University of Louisville where they will compete against the nationally-ranked No. 10 Cardinals on Sunday Dec. 5.
Men’s team cruises to victory in a dominant fashion
The Belmont men established their presence early, jumping out to a 16-7 lead in the first 5 minutes of the game.
And the Bruins’ lead grew once sophomore guard JaCobi Wood sprung off the bench.
Wood entered and immediately knocked down two 3-pointers, extending the Belmont lead to 15 points.
Overall, Belmont knocked down 17 shots from 3-point range — a feat that head coach Casey Alexander didn’t even expect.
“Sometimes we’re just making shots and executing better than others,” Alexander said. “Tonight it was all working pretty well together. The guys played really hard and unselfishly.”
No. 20 Tate Pierson celebrates from the bench with his teammates during Belmont’s 94-65 win over Lipscomb. Belmont Vision / Sarah Maninger.
Wood brought home 14 of his 17 total points in the first half, bringing the offense the Bruins needed right out of the gate.
“That’s his niche for our team right now. He’s a guy that could be out there playing 30, 35 minutes a game,” Alexander said. “He’s such a spark for us. He’s a really nice weapon to have. I love it when he plays with confidence.”
The Bruins entered halftime leading 47-26 after sinking ten 3-pointers and shooting an efficient 48% from behind the arc.
When play resumed, Bruins kept pressure on the Bisons, and the home team stacked up a 35-point lead in the second half.
Junior guard Ben Sheppard and senior center Nick Musynski led the charge for Belmont, fueling an offensive explosion throughout the half.
Sheppard contributed seven of his 16 points in the second half of play, two of which came from a massive dunk that elevated an already-energized Belmont student section.
Muszynski flexed his muscles, proving to be a force in the paint yet again, scoring nine of his 15 total points down the stretch. He added several powerful rebounds and a couple of mean-mugging blocks.
Thanks to a symphony of powerful performances, the Bruins sustained momentum throughout the game’s entirety, never trailing at any time.
Alexander said it was a great overall night for Belmont. He’s glad his team was able to compete against a quality opponent in a great environment, he said.
“Rivalry or not, I love how we played, we had a lot going our way and not to mention a great crowd,” he said.
The Bruins now stand at 6-3 and will look to continue their momentum when they host Samford University on Sunday back in the Curb Event Center.
PHOTO: Tuti Jones and JaCobi Wood stand at the free-throw line during their respective games against Lipscomb University on in the Curb Event Center, Dec. 2. Belmont Vision / Sarah Maninger.
This article was written by Landen Secrest and A.J. Wuest.
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