BELMONT, N.C. - Maria Kuhlman scored 19 points in a fourth-quarter comeback win, 77-69, for the Crusaders. The victory moves the Crusaders to 15-6 on the year and 12-2 in conference play. Lees-McRae is now 6-14 overall, and 3-11 against conference opponents. The win moves The Abbey into a tie for first place in Conference Carolinas.
Both defensive units came out strong at the start, as neither team gave up a point over the first two and a half minutes. The Crusaders defense only surrendered one Bobcat field goal over the first five and a half minutes of play. A three-pointer by Kuhlman gave The Abbey its first lead since its 3-0 score. Alex Busch capped off the Crusader scoring for the period and Lees-McRae led 14-12 after the first quarter. The Abbey's defense held the Bobcats to 27.8% shooting in the period.
Kuhlman also got the Crusader offense started in the second, with a jumper just a minute into the quarter. Later in the period, Belmont Abbey scored seven points in a one-minute span to go up 26-25. Keyanna Spivey scored the final Crusader basket of the half, and the Bobcats owned a 34-30 lead at halftime. In the second quarter, the game was tied three times. Kuhlman scored 10 points in the first half on 4-of-6 shooting.
In the third, Belmont Abbey fell into a deficit, but quickly went on an 8-0 run, including a 6-0 run by Kuhlman over a 55-second span. Spivey later scored four points 45 seconds to bring The Abbey back to within a 49-47 score. With 26 seconds to go in the quarter, Irelynn Davisson sunk two free throws to give the Crusaders their first lead of the quarter. Lees-McRae led 54-51 heading into the final period.
The fourth quarter was all Abbey. An 8-0 run to start the period put The Abbey in front 59-54. It did not stop there. Taylor Gittings made a layup to increase the lead to seven. The Crusaders only gave up two Bobcat points in the first 4:55 of the quarter. The Abbey led by as many as nine before closing out the 77-69 victory.
On the night, Kuhlman led The Abbey's offensive efforts, going 7-for-11 for 19 points. Emry Tsitouris grabbed a game-high nine rebounds. Briana Grier contributed with seven points, eight rebounds, and six assists. She did not turn the ball over at all in the game. Allie Downing was also solid, finishing with 10 points and five boards.
The Abbey will next welcome Converse College on Saturday, February 3 at 6 p.m. It will be a Think Pink game.