KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Destinee Wells knocked down a pair of free throws with 1:02 left in double overtime, and the Belmont Bruins knocked off No. 5 seed Oregon 73-70 Saturday for their second straight win as a 12 seed to open an NCAA Tournament.
Belmont (23-7) upset 14th-ranked Gonzaga in the Texas bubble last year in the women’s NCAA Tournament. With plenty of Lady Vols’ fans hanging around to cheer a fellow Tennessee school, the Bruins won their 13th straight and 19th in their last 21 games overall.
They will play fourth-seeded Tennessee, an 80-67 winner over Buffalo, on Monday in the second round.
This was the first double-overtime game in the NCAA Tournament since Dayton and St John’s in the first round in 2013. This was a thriller from start to finish with 10 ties and Wells’ go-ahead free throws was the seventh lead change and the only time Belmont led in the second overtime.
After Wells split two free throws with 4.5 seconds left, Oregon had a final chance. But Sedona Prince’s long 3 bounced off the rim as the Bruins rushed the court to hug each other and Prince hung her head in dejection.
Oregon had the ball for much of the final minute in the second overtime and couldn’t get a shot to fall.
The Ducks won a jump ball situation with 29.8 seconds remaining. They kicked the ball out to Endiya Rogers whose 3 hit off the far rim, and Madison Bartley got the rebound with 6.5 seconds left to start the Belmont celebration.
The Bruins led 50-44 lead with 5:02 left in the fourth before Oregon rallied with a 9-3 run capped by Te-Hina Paopao’s 3 from the left corner with 7.9 seconds left tying it up at 53. All Pac-12 forward Nyara Sabally blocked Nikki Baird’s 3-point attempt at the buzzer to force overtime.
Both teams had a chance to win at the end of the first overtime tied at 64. Sabally missed a layup in the final seconds before the All-Pac-12 forward blocked a couple inside chances by Bartley before the buzzer.
Tuti Jones led Belmont with 22 points, making all four of her 3-pointers. Wells finished with 16, and Conley Chinn added 10. The Bruins came in 20th in the nation knocking down an average of 8.4 3s per game. This time, they set a program record making 12.
Oregon (20-12) snapped a streak of five straight wins in the first round of the tournament under coach Kelly Graves. The Duck also snapped a streak of four straight Sweet 16 berths after being one of only six teams to make the regional semifinals each of the last four tournaments.
Sabally finished with a career-high 31 points and grabbed 12 rebounds. Te-hina Paopao added 18.
Belmont set the tone early taking a 9-2 lead with three 3s and led 13-8 after the first quarter. Oregon led 28-26 at halftime and 40-36 after the third.
Belmont: The Bruins came into the tournament with a NET ranking of 50 and had the sixth-most difficult non-conference schedule in the country. They beat Mississippi early in the season and and also played Georgia Tech, Louisville, Auburn and Arkansas.
Oregon: The Ducks had been very strong in the fourth quarter this season, outscoring teams by an average of 19 to 14.5 points a game.