NASHVILLE, Tenn.- Playing on national television at home for the first time in program history, the Belmont University women's basketball team (11-5, 3-0) held on for a 71-66 win over three-time defending regular season champ UT Martin (4-12, 1-2) Thursday evening at the Curb Event Center.
Four Bruins finished in double figures led by Darby Maggard (Larwill, Ind.) who registered 14 points. Reigning OVC Player of the Week, Jenny Roy (Brentwood, Tenn.), recorded her third-straight double double scoring 10 points and hauling in a game-high 12 rebounds. Roy also dished out a game-high six assists.
After leading by as many as 19 in the first quarter, the game ended up being a tight one as UT Martin stormed back, outscoring Belmont in every quarter but the first.
"I'm very proud of our fight, to hang on and finish the game like we did but I thought we didn't play with enough toughness. We came out engaged in the early going but went through stretches in the game where we lost our focus a little bit. We've got to embrace the fight that people are going to bring to us and have confidence in our training and preparation," said Head Coach Cameron Newbauer.
Sally McCabe (Mt. Juliet, Tenn.) scored 12 and Sierra Jones (Huntsville, Ala.) notched 11 points on 4-of-6 shooting to round out the Bruins to score in double figures. McCabe finished with a team-high four blocked shots.
"This game tonight was big. We definitely learned a lot. It's good for us to be in tight situations but I think we grinded it out. We recognize that every possession is important and you just have to play one at a time. I am proud of us and think we showed a sense of determination holding on down the stretch," said Roy after the game.
Belmont is now 17-1 over its last 18 games played at the Curb Event Center and has won 19 of its last 20 games overall including last season's run through the OVC Tournament.
Roy, who is averaging 12 points, 10.2 rebounds and 3.8 assists over her last five games, praised her teammates after their gritty victory saying, "I'm really grateful for my teammates. We move and share the ball every night. I just try to go out there with a mindset to do the little things and contribute in any way possible."
After the score stood at 7-5 in favor of the Bruins at the 5:29 mark in the first quarter, Belmont surged ahead with a 16-0 scoring run to lead by as many 19 in the quarter. After all was said and done in the first, Belmont led 25-8 after shooting 9-of-18 (50%) from the floor. McCabe and Jones each tallied six points in the frame and Belmont held an in rebounding at 16-6. The Bruins eight first quarter points given up were the third fewest in any period this season.
The Bruins carried a 43-28 edge heading into the intermission after shooting 52% from the field and holding the Skyhawks to just 32% shooting. UT Martin would outscore Belmont in the second, 20-18, but the early scoring run for the Bruins was the story of the first half. At the break the junior McCabe led all scorers with 10 points while Maggard and Jones each chipped with nine first half tallies.
After chipping away in the second, UT Martin carried its momentum into the third quarter, outscoring Belmont 14-10. The Bruins would go scoreless for over five minutes in the frame, and the Skyhawks cut the lead to just 45-42. But a late 8-0 scoring run helped the Bruins fend off UT Martin's spirited fight and they held a 53-42 edge heading into the final frame.
In the fourth, UT Martin outscored the Bruins 24-18 and trimmed deficit to as low as four at 64-60 with 2:01 to play. After holding a slim four-point lead, baskets by Jones and Kylee Smith (Alpharetta, Ga.) helped the Bruins earn some breathing room and they led 68-60 with just over a minute remaining. Belmont showed poise down the stretch, knocking down the necessary free throws, and managed to hold on for its ninth win in 10 games.
Belmont improves to 5-0 when at least four score in double figures.
OVC stalwarts Belmont and UT Martin met for the second-straight season on ESPNU but it was the first time a Belmont women's game was broadcast live from the Curb Event Center.
"The crowd was great. Belmont fans are like no other and that's one of the main reasons we love to play at home. It was very exciting to get the chance to play on TV. It's also a nice opportunity for family and friends farther away to get to see the game, so we were very thankful for the atmosphere tonight," remarked Roy.
UT Martin featured a trio of double-figure scorers, led by Emanye Robertson's 19 points.
BU faces a quick turnaround as it resumes OVC play Saturday, Jan. 7 when it welcomes SEMO to the Curb Event Center for a 5 p.m. Central time tilt.