Starkville, MS– The No. 13 seed Belmont Bruins fell in the first round of the NCAA women’s tournament to the No. 4 seed Michigan State Spartans 74-60 Friday.
The Bruins kept the game close through the first three quarters, but a 10-0 run by the Spartans early in the fourth quarter put the game away.
Belmont head coach Cam Newbauer was proud of how his team performed in the loss against a top Power-5 conference team.
“They’re bigger, stronger, faster, quicker, but our kids hung right in there with them and fought right with them until the end,” said Newbauer. “Our program took another step today for sure and I’m proud of that.”
Michigan State jumped out to an early lead as 3-pointers from juniors Tori Jankoska and Aerial Powers gave the Spartans a 12-5 edge.
Junior Frankie Joubran provided a spark off the bench for the Bruins after the first media timeout, scoring five points to lead a run which cut the deficit down to three heading into the second period.
“I think I found my role this year, coming off the bench to be a spark,” said Joubran. “We wanted it so I just came in and gave my effort.”
Belmont ended the first quarter down 20-17.
Belmont took the lead two minutes into the second quarter off a three from sophomore Sierra Jones. However, Michigan State went on a 10-0 to retake control of the game.
The Bruins played tight defense to close out the first half, holding the Spartans without points for the final four minutes of the half. The Bruins were also held scoreless for the final two minutes of the first half, but they were able to cut the lead down to four heading into halftime.
“They were fatigued in the first half, they were tired,” said Newbauer. “They weren’t making shots, we were getting stops and that energized us.”
Belmont trailed 34-30 at halftime.
Joubran and sophomore Kylee Smith tied for the team lead with nine points at halftime.
Smith continued her hot scoring in the second half, scoring the Bruins’ first seven points of the third quarter. A three-point play by freshman Darby Maggard cut the Michigan State lead down to two with four minutes remaining in the quarter.
The Spartans held off the Bruins for the quarter and were able to stay in front heading into the final period.
Belmont trailed 52-47 heading into the fourth quarter.
The Spartans’ 10-0 run to start the fourth quarter gave them their largest lead of the game at the time at 15. They would extend the lead to 18 with a 3-pointer from just beyond half court with less than three minutes remaining by Powers.
The Bruins were unable to cut the deficit down to single digits as the Spartans held on to win by 14.The loss drops the Bruins’ all-time record in the NCAA Tournament to 0-2.
Joubran led all Belmont scorers with 17 points followed by Smith with 16. Freshman Jenny Roy led the team on the boards with nine rebounds and Maggard and sophomore Sally McCabe tied for the team lead with 4 assists.
Powers scored a game-high 27 points for the Spartans. Spartan senior Jasmine Hines contributed 24 points as well.
With his third season as head coach of the Bruins completed, Newbauer is hopeful the team will learn from this first round defeat.
“They’re not going to forget what they did in their first NCAA Tournament appearance. I think that’s what’s going to drive them in the offseason and for next year,” said Newbauer. “That’s the great thing about this young team is we’ve got a lot of people coming back that are going to have that burn and that desire.”
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