The Belmont Abbey women's basketball team battled back from an early double digit deficit and would take a two point lead midway through the second half, but Johnson C. Smith held off the late Crusader charge for a 69-63 victory this afternoon at Brayboy Gymnasium. Johnson C. Smith improves to 6-4, while the Abbey enters the two week Christmas break with a mark of 7-4.
The Lady Golden Bulls stormed out to a 10-0 lead as the Crusaders missed their first six shots and also had a turnover in the first 4:21 before a Melisa Foures offensive rebound and putback broke the string. That play started a 6-0 Abbey run to close the gap to four.
JCSU answered by outscoring the Crusaders 20-10 over the next ten minutes to pull ahead 30-16-the largest lead of the game-with 4:45 left.
The Crusaders, however, dug in and fought back, netting the next six points of the game to close the margin down to eight. After two Golden Bulls free throws extended the cushion back to ten with 2:46 to go, the Abbey closed the half on fire, outscoring Johnson C. Smith 11-5 the rest of the way to shrink the halftime gap to just four, 37-33 at the break. The Golden Bulls last field goal of the half came at the 2:46 mark, as their last three points came from the line, while the Abbey closed the scoring with two field goals, a layup from McKenzie Owen with 31 seconds left and puncutated by a Kelsey Long layup 12 seconds later that ended the first half scoring.
Belmont Abbey maitainted its momentum after the break, outscoring JCSU 9-4 to open the second half, as Long gave the Abbey its first lead of the game with three free throws with 15:02 to play. Johnson C. Smith missed eight of its first nine shots to start the half and Long extended the Crusaders lead to a pair on a three-pointer with 14:29 to play that made the score 45-43.
The two teams then traded baskets, exchanging the lead, but a free throw by Marquesha Sparks at the 12:16 mark deadlocked the game at 47. Almost two minutes later, Sparks put the Golden Bulls ahead for good with layup, which started an 8-1 run that allowed Johnson C. Smith to hold the lead for the rest of the game.
Belmont Abbey did not go away, however, as it inched the lead down to a pair with 5:35 to play, but the Crusaders could get no closer as Johnson C. Smith answered with a jaunt that extended the edge to seven at 66-59 with 50 seconds left.
Tajanna Brown kept the Abbey hopes alive with running layup with nine seconds left that closed the lead to four, but Sparks swished both free throws with five seconds left to seal the win.
Owen led the Abbey with 14 points on 5-10 shooting. Long added 13 points and three steals. Belmont Abbey shot 33 percent from the field. Candace Fox handed out five assists and Brown's 12 rebounds led all players as she also had eight points.