Belmont women’s basketball used its “monster lineup” of junior Madison Bartley and sophomore Tessa Miller to secure its fifth-straight victory Thursday night, continuing its upward trend in Missouri Valley Conference play.
In a 64-54 home win over Murray State University, Belmont’s inside scorers combined for half of the team’s points and 20 rebounds.
“We had the ability to throw it in there and get some good looks, and I thought we did that pretty consistently,” head coach Bart Brooks said. “That’s why we’re hard to play against. We’ve got big guys that are really good around the basket.”
The first half was a slugfest with both teams grinding it out in the paint, working to maintain control of the ball.
At one point, Bartley went flying into the front row in an attempt at a loose ball, a moment that set the mood for Belmont.
It was going to be a grit and grind type of game.
Early on, the Bruins struggled to find success from three, shooting 2-16 from beyond the arc.
Instead, they relied on bullying the Racers in the paint as Bartley and Miller combined for 17 points and 10 rebounds in the first half.
On the defensive side, the Bruins held Racers star Katelyn Young to seven first-half points.
“I thought our players didn’t have their best offensive night shooting the basketball,” Brooks said. “We competed defensively, and we did a really good job of keeping them out of rhythm for most of the game.”
As the Bruins kept the Racers in check on defense, only three other Belmont players scored in the first half.
With an additional eight points, the Bruins entered the locker room with a 25-23 lead.
Once the second half began, Bartley and Miller continued their trend of terrorizing Murray State in the paint.
Looking crisp in their alternate red uniforms, the Bruins were energized by a student section also decked out in red.
A lead that grew to 11 points in the third quarter after a Bartley and-one.
Miller was the first player to congratulate her post partner with a hearty chest bump.
“We’re all getting more comfortable with each other and learning the ins and outs of each other’s games,” Miller said. “It’s just like a comfort thing.”
On the offensive end, Belmont fought its way to the basket with a wide variety of moves on the inside.
The tandem wasn’t afraid to get elbowed or scratched while fighting for a rebound and a second chance opportunity.
The result was a lead that Murray State kept trying to overcome.
As crunch time approached, the Racers made the game close despite getting pounded inside.
Young reemerged, bringing Murray State within one point nearly five minutes remaining in the game.
Floor general junior Destinee Wells got involved, making sure the Bruins never folded by attacking the rim and finally getting a three-point shot to fall.
Wells finished with 18 points, knocking down all of her crucial free throws down the stretch.
Although Young scored 15 points and collected 15 rebounds, it wasn’t enough to bring the Racers to victory inside the Curb Event Center.
With the win over their rival, Belmont moves to 12-10 overall and 8-3 in MVC play.
“We just want to prove to ourselves over and over again that we want to be the hardest working team out there,” Miller said, finishing with 13 points, 15 rebounds and 3 blocks. “I think that’s what we did tonight, and that’s what we hope to continue doing.”
For Brooks, it’s always a great feeling to win.
But beating Murray State just means more.
And he knows it.
“It always means a lot when you play Murray,” Brooks said. “We’ve been playing these guys for a lot of years, so we know these guys really well. Anytime you beat them, it feels good.” This article was written by Ty Wellemeyer