When conference play started back in January, no one expected the Belmont women’s basketball team to win their division, let alone make it to the OVC Finals.
But, coach Cameron Newbauer and the Bruins squad held their own against the four time conference champion UT-Martin in a 78-66 loss in the OVC title game.
“Just proud of our kids cause they brought it tonight and believed. I think as a coach that’s what you want them to do,” Newbauer said. “It’s hard to get to moments like these. We had the opportunity to play for something so big. I feel so bad for them, but just proud these are my girls.”
While the Bruins were unable to come away with the win, Belmont held the Skyhawks offense 10 points below their season average score.
“All those tough games and tough times we went through going as a team really shaped where we are today as a team,” Carroll said. “We wanted to put it all out there today.”
Jordyn Luffman finished with a team-high 16 points and received All-Tournament recognition along with fellow junior Katie Carroll. UT-Martin was led by OVC Tournament MVP Jasmine Newsome with 25 points.
The Skyhawks quickly garnered a 13-3 lead behind stellar three-point shooting as they knocked down three consecutive treys in the opening minutes.
While the team struggled to find its rhythm early, the Bruins scored six unanswered points to cut the lead 13-7. A three pointer from Carroll brought Belmont within four with 13 minutes remaining.
However, Jasmine Newsome attacked inside the paint for the layup and sank the subsequent free throw to extend the Skyhawks lead 19-12.
Over the next several minutes, Belmont pulled within two twice behind the play from Luffman and Frankie Joubran.
Both teams turned to their defense as the they alternated possessions, unable to come away with a basket until a layup from Newsome with 5:26 to go.
After nearly a four minute scoring drought for Belmont, Taylor Mills nailed two three pointers and the Bruins found themselves down only by one with 3:29 to play in the first half.
As time was winding down in the half, Karisma Tyson knocked down a three-pointer at the buzzer to give the Skyhawks a 37-29 lead.
Belmont shot 34 percent from the field while UT-Martin shot over 43 percent. Both teams drilled five threes in the first half and the Bruins outrebounded the Skyhawks 22-18.
As the second half started, UT-Martin picked up where it left off as the Skyhawks pushed their lead 53-38 for their biggest lead of the game.
Behind physical play inside the paint, Joubran scored seven unanswered points to pull Belmont within single digits.
Joubran earned a double-double with 13 points and 10 rebounds on the afternoon.
With less than three minutes remaining in the game, an Adrienne Tarrence field goal shortened the deficit 68-61. However, the Skyhawks sealed the game behind the arc and at the charity stripe.
In the first season in the Newbauer Era, the Bruins finished 14-17 overall with a 11-7 conference record. With its appearance in the final, the team also earned an automatic postseason berth to the WNIT.