Four Belmont Abbey women's basketball players reached double figures as guards Morgan Midkiff and Kelsey Long tied for the game-high with 17 points each as the Crusaders posted their 20th win of the season with a 73-68 victory at Lees-McRae this afternoon. Belmont Abbey, winners of five-straight, improve to 20-7 overall and 14-3 in Conference Carolinas. Lees-McRae drops to 12-14 overall and 9-8 in league play.
With at least two games left to play (regular season finale at Erskine Tuesday night and a home Conference Carolinas Tournament quarterfinal game at home on March 1) the Crusaders have won 20 games for the first time since the 2004-05 team won 22 games. Belmont Abbey won 19 games in both 2008 and 2009 but have not reached 20 in ten years.
Along with Midkiff and Long, Tajanna Brown added 16 points (one shy of her career) high, while McKenzie Owen added ten and a career-high four blocked shots. She also had an assist and two steals. Midkiff and Long finished with nearly identical lines as they both had 17 points, four rebounds, two assists and three fouls. Long totaled a block and Midkiff had one steal. Brown finished one rebound shy of a double double with nine boards. She also had three steals. Candace Fox handed out six assists as 13 of the 25 buckets were assisted.
The Crusaders shot 48.1 percent (13-27) in the first half as they built a 34-28 lead at the break, but it was the Lady Bobcats that controlled the first seven minutes of the game. With one exception-a 2-2 tie-the Lady Bobcats led for the first nine minutes before a Brown layup at the 11:03 mark gave the Crusaders their first lead at 15-14.
Lees-McRae immediately regained its lead and extended it to four until the Crusaders surged ahead for good on a 17-9 run to close the half. the flurry was capped off by a Caitlin Ranson three pointer with 21 seconds left that extended the Abbey's lead to six at the half.
Belmont Abbey opened the second half on a 12-5 run to gain a 13 point lead at 46-33 with just under three minutes gone by. All 12 points were three point plays, with Midkiff, Long and Melisa Foures all connecting from long-range while Owen sank a traditional three point play to cap the run.
One minute later, Brown moved the lead to 14 with a layup, but the Lady Bobcats cut it back down to single digits, 53-45 with 13:41 to go.
The Crusaders immediately fired right back with a 16-8 run over the next eight minutes to surge ahead by 16-the largest lead of the game-at 69-53 with 5:17 to go. From there, the Lady Bobcats closed to as few as seven-the final points of the game-but the contest was never in doubt.
Belmont Abbey shot 44.6 percent (25-56) from the field and made eight of 14 from three-point range, including five of eight in the second half. The Crusaders swished 17 of 19 from the line.
The Crusaders close the regular season Tuesday night at 5:30 when traveling to Erskine.