SAN MARCOS, Texas — Belmont freshman Destinee Wells scored 25 points and had seven assists in a turnover-free game as the younger and smaller 12th seeded Bruins held on for their first victory ever in the women’s NCAA Tournament, pulling off a 64-59 upset over fifth-seeded Gonzaga on Monday.
The Bruins (21-5) sealed the game with 19 seconds left when Wells, on a drive with the shot clock winding down, passed inside to Madison Bartley. The fellow freshman had to rip the ball away from the defender, but made the layup while being fouled and added the free throw for a five-point lead.
Jill Townsend had 17 points for Gonzaga (23-4), which had cut a 10-point deficit in the fourth quarter to 57-55 on Abby O’Connor’s 3-pointer with just over four minutes left. The Bulldogs never got closer.
Belmont, which had been 0-5 in the NCAA Tournament, plays No. 4 seed Indiana in the second round Wednesday in the Mercado Region. The Bruins are the first OVC team to win an NCAA tourney game since Tennessee Tech in 1990.
The Bruins wiped out an early 11-point deficit by scoring 13 points in a row, a stretch that started when the 5-foot-6 Wells drove for a jumper to end the first quarter. They then scored the first 11 points in the second quarter, a stretch capped by Jamilyn Kinney’s second 3-pointer to put them up 24-22.
Wells had a fastbreak 3-pointer to put them ahead for good less than thee minutes after halftime, in a stretch when she and Townsend twice traded baskets.
While freshmen guards Wells and 5-7 Tuti Jones started for Belmont, the Bulldogs had four senior starters, including 6-3 twins Jenn and Lee Anne Wirth.
Wells, who was coming off a career-best 32 points in the OVC tournament championship game also scored the last five points of the third quarter for a 52-44 lead, with a layup and then three free throws after being fouled when trying a 3-pointer just before the buzzer.
Gonzaga led 22-11 in the final minute of the first quarter after a free throw by West Coast Conference player of the year Jenn Wirth, who finished with nine points, six rebounds and six assists
LeeAnne Wirth had 10 points on 5-of-5 shooting, including a layup to end the game. — Associated Press
NCAA Championships / YouTube
4:30 – Gonzaga 13, Belmont 7
0:00 – Gonzaga 22, Belmont 13
5:54 – Belmont 24, Gonzaga 22
1:15 – Belmont 33, Gonzaga 28
0:00 – Belmont 33, Gonzaga 32
Destinee Wells has 13 points as the Bears stormed back in the second quarter to take a slim lead into halftime against the Bulldogs.
Jill Townsend and LeeAnne Wirth are pacing the Zags with six points apiece. GU is shooting 58.3% from the floor and 42.9% from deep, but have eight turnovers.
0:00 – Belmont 52, Gonzaga 44: The Bruins have their biggest lead of the game after Destinee Wells knocks down three free throws after being fouled attempting a 3-pointer at the end of the quarter.
Wells has 23 points and six assists.
Gonzaga is led by Jill Townsend’s 11 points. The Bulldogs are shooting 54.5% but have been doomed by 14 turnovers.
4:30 – Belmont 45, Gonzaga 39: The Bruins have made five of their last six shots and lead the Bulldogs by six.
Destinee Wells leads Belmont with 18 points.
Jill Townsend has 11 points to pace Gonzaga, which hasn’t made a field goal in 3:47.
The Zags have committed 12 turnovers, which Belmont has turned into 18 points.
4:55 – Belmont 55, Gonzaga 50: Zags trim the Bruins’ lead to five as Belmont hasn’t made a field goal in the last 4:41.
Jill Townsend has 15 points to lead Gonzaga. The guard can add two more as she has two free throws after the timeout.
Destinee Wells has 23 points to lead Belmont.
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