The win was the second in a row for the Lady Bisons. It was the first loss for Belmont on its home court this season and its first Atlantic Sun Conference loss. The Lady Bisons have won their last three games with Belmont dating back to last season. This was the biggest margin of victory in those three wins.
“Hopefully, we can build on the intensity level and our execution in these last two games and move forward,” said Lady Bisons coach Frank Bennett. “It would have been easy to quit after we lost seven games in a row.
“We have been trying to get into stuff quicker and not be quite so set. I think that has helped us take care of the ball. We get some motion before we try to score.”
It was the second time this season that Bartsokas has scored 20 or more points. She finished with 20 against Tennessee Tech Nov. 18. She made seven field goals and eight free throws, both career highs. She tied her career-high for free throw attempts with 10.
The Lady Bisons spotted Belmont a 4-0 lead to open the game. A 3-pointer by Anna Bowers gave the Lady Bisons their first lead of the game at 9-6 with 15:21 left in the first half.
They maintained their first half advantage. The biggest lead for the Lady Bisons was 12 points, 33-21, on a pair of free throws by sophomore forward Valerie Bronson.
The Lady Bisons held a 35-31 lead at halftime, the most points they have scored in the first half this season. They scored 31 against Campbell Jan. 8 in a 69-45 win at Allen Arena.
With 9:13 left to play Belmont moved into the lead for the first time in the second half, on a 3-point shot from Cacy Burtnett.
The Belmont lead was short lived.
With 6:51 remaining in the game Bowers hit a pair of free throws to give the Lady Bisons a 51-50 lead they would not give up. The game stayed close the rest of the way but the Lady Bisons, often playing three freshmen at a time, refused to give up their lead.
“Belmont is such a good team,” said Bennett. “Anytime we play them it is going to be a dog fight. You never know what possession might change the game.
“It got a little tight when they took the lead, but we responded well to that. We met their runs.”
In the final stretch the Lady Bisons used a combination of lay-ups and free throw shooting to ice the game. In the final 1:11 the Lady Bisons hit 10-of-12 free throws.
“This was a real team effort,” said Bennett. “We got things from all of the players offensively, defensively and rebounding. It is good when your top players all play well.”
The Lady Bisons set new NCAA era records for both free throws made and free throws attempted in a game.
The 31 free throws the Lady Bisons made broke the old mark of 28 set twice against Stetson, Dec. 29, 2002, and against Florida Atlantic March 2, 2006.
The 41 attempts shattered the old mark of 39 against Georgia State Feb. 19, 2005.
Senior forward Jilian Partin earned her third double-double of the season and the 10th of her career with 14 points and 11 rebounds, which ties her season high.
Sophomore forward Cree Nix added 15 points, her second game in a row to score 15.
“This was the first time Cree has played over here,” said Bennett. “She had a broken hand last year. She had been talking a lot about playing here at the Curb. She went out and got us started early.”
Bennett also praised the play of Bowers, making her second straight start. She played a season high 33 minutes.
“Anna got a big steal for us,” said Bennett. “She played a real solid game. She always plays tough defensively.”
Belmont placed three players in double figures. Guard Amber Rockwell scored a team-high 19 points. Center Jessica Bobbitt completed the double-double with 12 points and 10 rebounds. Burtnett chipped in with 11 points.
Belmont forward Haley Nelson tied for the game-high in rebounds with 11.
The Lady Bisons are 4-11, 2-4 in the A-Sun. Belmont slipped to 5-1 in the conference, 10-5 overall.