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MSU defeats Belmont, advances to second round of NCAA Tournament

March 18, 2016
From left to right, sophomore guard Branndais Agee, junior forward Aerial Powers, head coach Suzy Merchant and senior center Jasmine Hines celebrate their teams victory after the game against Ohio State on Feb. 27, 2016 at Breslin Center. The Spartans defeated the Buckeyes, 107-105 in triple overtime.
From left to right, sophomore guard Branndais Agee, junior forward Aerial Powers, head coach Suzy Merchant and senior center Jasmine Hines celebrate their teams victory after the game against Ohio State on Feb. 27, 2016 at Breslin Center. The Spartans defeated the Buckeyes, 107-105 in triple overtime. —
Photo by Sundeep Dhanjal | and Sundeep Dhanjal The State News

March Madness is underway and now the Spartans are in the full swing of things. The No. 4-seeded MSU women’s basketball team defeated the No. 13-seeded Belmont Bruins in the first round of the NCAA tournament in Starkville, Mississippi by a final score of 74-60.

The Spartans struck first blood with a jumper by Branndais Agee, but Belmont forward Kylee Smith made back-to-back scores to get ahead of MSU early with a 5-2 lead. Powers would start a Spartan offensive rhythm with a layup and MSU would go on a 14-3 run to establish a 16-8 lead with 3:48 left to play in the quarter. The Bruins, however, would fight their way back and end the opening quarter on a 9-4 scoring run to make the score 20-17.

Belmont would again take the lead with consecutive scores from Smith and sophomore guard Sierra Jones and make the score 22-20. The Spartans would follow with a 14-4 run to get up 34-26. Belmont would end the half to with back-to-back scores from Smith and junior forward Lauren Thompson to make the score 34-30.

As a team, the Spartans shot 41.2 percent from the floor in the first half, with major contributions from junior guards Aerial Powers, Tori Jankoska and senior center Jasmine Hines. Hines led the Spartan offense, going 3-for-5 from the field with nine points five rebounds in the first half. Powers scored eight points and six boards and three assists, while Jankoska scored five in the half.

Belmont would find the bulk of their offense from Smith and junior forward Frankie Jourbran. The two Bruins each had nine points and shot a combined 8-for-14 from the field.

The Bruins would continue to hang on in the third quarter and match MSU's scoring performance.  The Spartans scored 18 points and Belmont scored 17 in the third to make the score 52-47 at the end of the third.

MSU would flex their muscles to start the fourth, scoring 10 unanswered in rapid succession to go on top 62-47.  The Bruins would then go on a 7-2 run that would be stopped by a Powers jumper.  MSU outscored Belmont 22-13.

Powers and Hines finished the contest with a combined 51 points. Hines scored 24, going 9-for-12 from the floor with seven rebounds and Powers made 27, shooting 11-of-21 with three of those made from behind the arc.  Powers passed Liz Shimek as MSU's all-time leading scorer.

MSU will play the winner of the No. 5 Mississippi State vs. No. 12 Chattanooga on March 20, in Starkville. Time for tip off is yet to be determined.

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