WBB battle down to the wire against Vandy in season opener

Photos: Andrew Hunt

In the final minutes of the season opener, the Belmont women’s basketball team put together a furious comeback against Vanderbilt. But the attempt came up short for the Bruins in a 65-58 loss to the Commodores Friday night.

Although the team trailed for most of the night, Belmont took its first lead with two minutes to play on a layup from freshman Sally McCabe. But Vanderbilt scored eight unanswered points to seal the win.

“If you would have told me we would be up one point with two minutes to go with 15 first half turnovers and 20 offensive rebounds, I’d tell you that you’re nuts,” said Belmont coach Cameron Newbauer. “But, that shows the character and perseverance of our team. They didn’t let anything stop them tonight.”

Senior guard Jordyn Luffman-Hartsfield drilled a team-high 22 points on the night and shot nine of 16 from the field. McCabe and Taylor Mills rounded out the double-digit scorers for the Bruins with 11 and 10 points respectively.

Vanderbilt started off with a quick 6-0 lead thanks to a layup from Marqu’es Webb and three-pointer by Rachel Bell.

Belmont committed seven turnovers before Luffman-Hartsfield scored its first basket five minutes into the game.

The Bruins battled to lessen the gap to five points. But just when it seemed the Bruins were pulling within striking distance, the Commodores pushed their lead back to double-digits thank to inside-the-paint play from Morgan Batey.

Belmont eventually settled into a rhythm as the half progressed and a three from Mills cut Vanderbilt’s lead 28-25 with less than three minutes remaining in the half.

Despite numerous turnovers, the Bruins found themselves down only 32-27 at halftime. Belmont shot 43.5 percent from the field and knocked down five three-pointers.

In the first six minutes of the second half, Vanderbilt pushed its lead to double-digits once again at 44-34 with a 6-0 run.

Belmont fought right back as McCabe fueled a seven-point run for the Bruins to bring the team within three at the 12 minute mark in the second half.

“Her poise and patience out there tonight, I think calmed our team down. She has this air about her where she doesn’t get frazzled or flustered,” said Newbauer. “She came in mad, knocked down a three and showed her skill right away.”

With four minutes left, Frankie Joubran scored six-straight points to bring Belmont within one point. The forward led the Bruins with 12 rebounds on the night and finished two points shy of a double-double.

Minutes later, the rebound and layup from McCabe gave Belmont its first lead of the night, 58-57 with two minutes to play.

However, the lead was short-lived as Vanderbilt regained possession a minute later and kept Belmont scoreless for the final minute to secure the 65-58 win.

Although 15 turnovers were committed in the first half, Belmont limited its mistakes to two in the second half.

“We didn’t really make any adjustments, we just calmed down. We were more patient, more poised,” said Newbauer. “The turnovers should have happened because we weren’t poised early on. They actually pressed us more second half full court, which is quite an anomaly.”

Belmont returns to the Curb Event Center on Sunday when it hosts North Alabama in the home opener. Tipoff is set for 5 p.m.

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