Brittney Ezell gave her players an early wake-up call with a 7:45 a.m. shoot-around on Thursday.
Belmont's women's basketball coach guessed point guard Adrienne Tarrence and center Alyssa Visbeen rolled out of bed at 7:43. By the time they and their teammates stepped on the floor, though, the grogginess was gone.
“They had a very focused look. I think it was hunger. I think it was sleep deprivation,” Ezell said smiling. “It was an excitement but they had a look of they were locked in.”
The Bruins looked anything but sleepy in their Ohio Valley Conference Tournament debut. Behind seven first-half 3-pointers and seal-tight defense, they cruised to a 62-45 win over Southern Illinois-Edwardsville at Municipal Auditorium.
Third-seeded Belmont (18-12) advances to play No. 2 seed Tennessee Tech (18-11) at 2 p.m. Friday (ESPN3).
The Bruins charged to a 29-12 halftime lead, holding the Cougars (16-14) to a season-low in first-half points. SIUE, the No. 6 seed, shot just 22.2 percent against the OVC’s best scoring defense.
All but one of Belmont’s eight baskets in the first half were 3-pointers, including three from Molly Ernst. The Bruins attempted 16 3-pointers before halftime. They shot just three after the break — all missed — but built a 21-point lead.
“It was good to hit a couple and I think it really got us going,” Visbeen said. “It was exciting. You have a lot of excitement in a conference tournament and the first team to really get going is really in an advantage. I was happy that our team stepped up and took that challenge.”
Tarrence came off the bench to score 12 of her game-high 14 points in the second half. Katie Brooks added 12 points and Jordan Coleman had 10 rebounds.
For SIUE, Raven Berry had 10 points and 12 rebounds but made just two of 11 shots.
“I looked up at one point and caught myself being a little bit of a fan,” Ezell said. “I was like, ‘Wow.’ We had such a great Belmont contingency here. That had to be fun for them to see our kids clicking on all cylinders early in the first half. We’re not really a first-half team. So I would contribute the start to the start of the day.”