The women’s basketball team defeated the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga 63-50 Wednesday night in the season opener.
Senior Ellie Harmeyer stepped into a leadership role immediately to begin the season, posting a rare 20-20 stat line and finishing the game with a team high 22 points and 20 rebounds. Harmeyer’s 36 minutes and plus-minus rating of +17 both led the team as well.
“Honestly, I have to give my teammates all the credit there is to give,” Harmeyer said. “They found me in all the open spots. They passed me the ball when I was open, and honestly I couldn’t have done that without them.”
Harmeyer’s 20 rebounds well surpassed her personal best of 14 from last season, which she accomplished in back-to-back games against Austin Peay and Southeast Missouri. Jenny Roy was the only other Bruin to reach 20 rebounds in a game last season, when the Bruins dropped 100 points on Tennessee-Martin in February.
Head coach Bart Brooks was pleased by Harmeyer’s efficiency.
“I knew she got a lot of rebounds but I didn’t realize it was that many,” Brooks said. “That’s pretty rare to see a 20 on a rebounding number. That’s Ellie’s toughness and her competitiveness. I’m really proud of her. She put us on her back down the stretch.”
Freshman Kiki Britzmann scored nine points and hauled in a rebound in her first game as a Bruin, and sophomore Conley Chinn broke into double figures with 12 points.
The Bruins led the Mocs the entire game, jumping out to a 6-0 lead behind baskets from Britzmann, Harmeyer and Chinn. Chattanooga had been unable to put together momentum on offense as two early offensive fouls by the Mocs put the ball in the Bruins’ hands. Through six minutes of play, Harmeyer alone had tied Chattanooga in total points with 4 apiece, as the Bruins led 11-4.
The Bruins’ offense found its stroke early, as three different players — Chinn, Maddie Wright and Maura Muensterman — all drained three-pointers in the first quarter.
Muensterman’s first three-point make would be the Bruins’ last points for over six minutes, as they were held without another basket until well into the second quarter. Belmont led 19-14 after one quarter of play, but a few careless turnovers plagued the Bruins’ offense to begin the next period.
After not attempting any free throws in the first quarter, both Harmeyer and Britzmann knocked down a pair to bring the Bruins to 4-4 shooting on free throws for the second quarter.
Though the Mocs pulled with 1 point with only about a minute to play in the half, courtesy of a Lakelyn Bouldin three, the Bruins broke the lead open to 5 at halftime, leading 35-30.
Harmeyer noted how the team was able to adapt to Chattanooga’s offense going into the second half.
“I think defensively, we made some adjustments,” Harmeyer said. “We changed some matchups up on defense, and I think that helped us tremendously. We wouldn’t have won this game if it wasn’t for our defense.”
It was a relatively quiet third quarter for both teams, as the Bruins outscored the Mocs 13-11. The Bruin defense was stout throughout, holding the Mocs to their lowest point total of any of the first three quarters, as well as forcing a key defensive stop when Chattanooga spent the entire 30-second shot clock only to be denied.
Maddie Wright had a heroic moment at the end of the shot clock later on in the quarter, knocking down a turnaround layup as the shot clock hit zero.
With less than a minute to play in the third quarter, Chinn earned a three-point play opportunity as she was fouled on a layup, and made the free throw to extend the Bruins’ lead to 11, their largest of the game up to that point. Belmont finished the third quarter leading 48-41 after a couple of buckets by the Mocs closed the gap the Bruins had built.
Harmeyer drained a three from the left wing to give the Bruins their first bucket of the fourth quarter, and Muensterman followed up Harmeyer’s three with one of her own, extending the Bruins’ lead to ten points with eight minutes to play.
Chattanooga made a strong defensive effort in the final few minutes, forcing turnovers and nearly catching the Bruins on a ten-second call. In the end, the Bruins held onto their double digit lead for good.
Harmeyer grabbed her 20th rebound with 36 seconds to play to help put away the game for the Bruins.
Coach Brooks reflected on his team’s performance after adapting to Chattanooga’s plan of attack.
“I think we did a better job in the second half of guarding their perimeter,” Brooks said. “I thought our team slowed down a little bit offensively and we got the ball where we wanted. And we might not have made the shot in the second half quite as efficiently as I’d like but we got the ball where we wanted it and we got some good looks.”
Article written by Evan Dorian. Photos by Colby Crosby. Video produced by Caitlin Alexander.