The University of Southern Indiana women's basketball team scored nine unanswered points to defeat Bellarmine University, 67-58, Thursday evening in a Great Lakes Valley Conference tilt at the Physical Activities Center.
USI (14-4, 6-4 GLVC), which used a stifling defensive effort in the game's final 15 minutes, broke a 58-58 tie when junior guard Ariel Barnes (Henderson, Kentucky) made good on a jumper with 2:37 to play.
The Screaming Eagles, who trailed 45-39 with 15 minutes to play, held the visiting Knights scoreless in their final six offensive possessions and to just four field goals in their final 32 possessions.
Sophomore forward/center Mary O'Keefe (Edwardsville, Illinois) hit a pair of free throws with 1:12 to play to extend the Eagles' advantage to 62-58; then junior guard Stephanie Carpenter (Salem, Illinois) gave USI a five-point edge with 38 seconds to play when she made the back end of a two-shot foul.
USI, which ended a three-game losing streak, put the game on ice as sophomore forward/center Anna Hackert (Evansville, Indiana) made her final four free throw attempts.
With 15 minutes to play, however, it looked as if the Eagles' unblemished record at the PAC was serious jeopardy.
The Knights (16-5, 6-4 GLVC), who trailed by as many as eight in the first half and two at the break (35-33), opened the second period by outscoring the Eagles 12-4 to build a six-point edge and turn momentum into their favor.
USI countered with a 12-1 run, spurred on by the offensive outburst by sophomore guard Libby Ogden (Tipton, Indiana). Ogden scored seven straight points for the Eagles as they pulled into a 46-46 tie with 12:46 to play.
Hackert continued the run with a free throw to give the Eagles a one-point lead a minute later; then Carpenter and Barnes drained shots in the next 1:27 to put the Eagles in front, 51-46, with 10 minutes to play.
As quickly as the Eagles turned their fortunes around, however, the Knights were able to do the same as sophomore forward Darion Hutchinson hit a three-pointer and senior guard Betsy Goodin scored on a layup to even the score at 51 with nine minutes on the clock.
O'Keefe answered for the Eagles with a three-point play to give USI a short-lived three-point advantage; then, after the Knights countered with one of their eight three-pointers, Hackert scored back-to-back layups to put USI in front 58-54.
Goodin scored four points in a matter of 16 seconds as Bellarmine evened the game at 58-58 with 2:43 to play, but that was all the offense the Knights would produce as the Eagles' defense clamped down to lift USI to its 11th victory in as many tries at the PAC.
Hackert, the Women's Division II Bulletin Player of the Month in January, led the Eagles with a game-high 20 points to go along with a team-high nine rebounds. Barnes added 13 points and three steals, while O'Keefe chipped in 10 points and six rebounds.
Senior guard Kylie Brady paced the Knights with 17 points, while Hutchinson added 12 points and a game-high 11 rebounds.
USI returns to action Saturday at 1 p.m. when it travels to Lebanon, Illinois, to take on GLVC-newcomer McKendree University. The Bearcats (6-12, 1-9 GLVC) suffered a 76-73 setback to Kentucky Wesleyan College Thursday evening in Owensboro, Kentucky.
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