HICKORY, N.C. -- Belmont Abbey junior forward McKenzie Owen scored a game-high 25 points and senior guard Candace Fox handed out a career-high 12 assists as the Crusaders upset third-seeded Wingate 96-83 in the first round of the NCAA tournament. The win is the second in the NCAA tournament and the first since 1998-99 season as they improve to 22-8. Wingate ends its season with a mark of 24-6.

Belmont Abbey is playing in the NCAA tournament for the first time since the 2001-02 season and the 22 wins are the most since 2004-05.

The Crusaders will face No. 7 Limestone Saturday. Belmont Abbey handed Limestone its only two Conference Carolinas losses of the season.

The game featured seven ties and nine lead changes, but Belmont Abbey led for much of the first half, rising it to as high as ten at 22-12 with 12:03 left.

Up 34-25 with 4:33 to play, Wingate used an 11-0 run to take its first lead since the 14:57 mark with a 35-34 edge with 1:24 left.

Belmont Abbey entered the half on a surge, scoring the last five points of the stanza on an Owen layup and a three-pointer from Midkif with nine seconds left that gave the Crusaders a 39-37 halftime lead. Mikdiff's conversion was her

In the second half the Crusaders scored 54 points as it absorbed a late Bulldogs surge and converted 13 of 15 from the line in the final 1:39.

Belmont Abbey maintained its lead in the first 3:45 before Wingate grabbed a 46-43 lead with exactly 16:00 to go. The Bulldogs built it up to three, but a Caitlyn Ranson three pointer deadlocked the game for the fifth time.

From there, the two teams traded leads and was tied again at 54 with 11:21 to go before a Crusaders run of 18-8-capped off by a Ranson trifecta-built the lead to ten at 72-62 with 5:45 left.

A Wingate free throw pulled the lead back down to nine, but the Crusaders quickly moved it back to double figures on four straight points: a jumper from Mikdkiff and another from Foures. That moved the lead to 13 with 3:13 to go at 78-65.

The Bulldogs used one last charge, dropping their deficit down to six at 84-70 with 1:44 to go and again a 89-83 with 38 ticks left.

In both cases, Belmont Abbey answered at the free throw line, sinking eight of ten in the last minute. Two free throws from Foures with 21 seconds left sealed the seven point victory.

Belmont Abbey shot 54.7 percent from the field as Owen led all scorers with 25 points on 10-17 from the field. She also had 11 rebounds and three steals. Midkiff added 19 points and four assists, while Ranson added a 18 on 4-5 shooting, including 4-4 from three-point range.

The Crusaders converted 28-32 from the line and outrebounded Wingate 38-31.