The Belmont Abbey women's basketball team never trailed after the early portion of the first half as the Crusaders used a solid defensive showing to post a 77-66 win over the visiting Lees-McRae Bobcats this evening at the Wheeler Center. Belmont Abbey, which played for the first time in 14 days, improves to 8-5 overall and 2-1 in Conference Carolinas, while the Bobcats drop to 4-8 overall and 1-2 in league play.
The victory over the Bobcats is the Abbey's third-straight and the 14th in the last 15 meetings.
Lees-McRae opened the game on a 12-5 run in the first 3:56 to claim its largest lead of the contest, but the Crusaders countered with a 9-0 run to halt the Bobcats momentum and surge ahead 14-12.
After a Lees-McRae basket knotted the game, Caitlyn Ranson swished her second three-pointer in as many possessions to move the Abbey ahead by three. Two free throws from Melisa Foures stretched the lead to five, but a Bobcats run closed the gap to a pair at 21-19 with 8:27 to go.
Belmont Abbey would surge ahead by as many as five twice more in the half, but the Bobcats again answered, re taking the lead at 33-31 with 2:11 to play as Lees-McRae used a pair of turnovers to move ahead.
That was the last Bobcats lead, as the Crusaders stormed ahead for good in the final 1:27. McKenzie Owen's layup moved the Crusaders ahead for good at 35-33 and Morgan Midkiff punctuated the half with a three-pointer with 13 seconds left-the last of her 14 in the period-to send the Abbey into the break with a 38-33 lead.
The Crusaders scored the first five points of the second half to extend their lead to ten, but the Bobcats scored the next seven straight to whittle the lead down to three, but the Abbey fired right back to move the lead back to six.
Several minute later, the Bobcats again closed the Abbey's cushion down to three, coming at 62-59 with 5:23 showing, but the Crusaders scored eight in a row, as Owen sank a layup, followed by a Larisa Bishop three-pointer. Lees-McRae came up empty on its next possession, missing a three-pointer which was grabbed by Bishop, who sailed a long pass ahead to Tajanna Brown for an uncontested layup that extended the lead to 69-59 with 4:16 to go.
From there, the Crusaders lead never dipped below seven and rose to as high as 11 twice, on a three-pointer by Candace Fox with 1:32 left, and again with 39 seconds left as Fox closed the scoring with a pair of free throws.
Belmont Abbey shot 38 percent as Owen led the way with 22 points on 10-18 shooting with seven rebounds, two assists and three steals. Midkiff added 19, 14 in the first half. Brown's eight rebounds was a team-high, while Foures grabbed seven. Ashia Holmes handed out five assists-a game high-as 18 of the Crusaders 27 field goals were assisted.