NASHVILLE, Tenn.- The Belmont University women's basketball team (13-5, 5-0 OVC) won its seventh-straight game and improved to 5-0 in conference play as it closed out a three-game homestand with a 74-58 victory over Eastern Kentucky (6-11, 3-1) Wednesday evening at the Curb Event Center.
In a rematch of last season's OVC Tournament Championship, the Bruins and the Colonels battled in what was a contested bout throughout. Darby Maggard (Larwill, Ind.) paced Belmont with 15 points, eight assists and zero turnovers to highlight a group of three to finish in double figures. Jenny Roy (Brentwood, Tenn.) continued her impressive stretch of play, registering 11 points and eight rebounds and teammate Kylee Smith (Alpharetta, Ga.) scored 10 points to round out the Bruins in double digits. Sally McCabe (Mt. Juliet, Tenn.) again produced an all-around solid performance, recording eight points, eight rebounds and six blocks. Frankie Joubran (Goodrich, Mich.) also tallied eight boards as Belmont outrebounded Eastern Kentucky, 45-33.
"We were excited to see the effort and focus that we used to close out the game. Eastern is a very good team that gave us a lot of problems tonight. Proud of how we accepted the challenges presented and fought together to get the win," said Head Coach Cameron Newbauer after the game.
Belmont led by just five with 5:30 remaining in regulation but closed out the Colonels down the stretch, to win for its 11th time in 12 games.
"We've gotta hand it to them. They (Eastern Kentucky) are a scrappy bunch, they're never going to quit. I'm proud of our team for pushing back at the end of the game. For us to capitalize at the end of the game and to really put our foot down is something that we really work on and it made the difference," said Maggard after the game.
OVC Preseason Player of the Year Jalen O'Bannon finished with 21 points and 10 boards to lead Eastern Kentucky.
At the first quarter media timeout, the Bruins faced a 9-5 deficit, but closed out the final five minutes of the opening quarter on a 10-2 run to carry a 15-11 advantage heading into the second.
In the second, the teams battled back and forth with Belmont outscoring EKU, 16-13. After EKU led 23-20 with 4:56 remaining in the frame, Belmont again closed the quarter strong, ending the second on an 11-1 run heading into the half. Belmont led 31-24 at the game's intermission, Maggard paced all scorers at the break with 10 points. Both squads finished the half shooting 37% from the floor as the teams struggled to find their footing in the early going. Joubran brought in six rebounds in eight minutes off the bench, providing a spark for Belmont.
Belmont continued to build on its advantage, outscoring EKU 20-17 in the third. Eastern Kentucky endured a seven-minute scoring drought as it went scoreless from the middle of the second to the 6:53 mark of the third, during this time Belmont employed a 17-0 run. Belmont built a 15 point lead early in the third, leading the Colonels 41-26, but EKU countered with an 8-0 run to trim the gap to 41-34 at the under-five media timeout in the period. Belmont would lead by as many 12 in latter stages of the third and carried a 51-41 lead heading into the fourth quarter.
EKU opened up the fourth on a 6-0 run and shrunk the Bruin lead to just four at 51-47, before Sierra Jones (Huntsville, Ala.) broke the run with an and 1 conversion at the 7:22 mark. Jones' basket was a pivotal one as Belmont would not allow the Colonels within four points for the remainder of the game. The Colonels would get the score within six with just over three minutes to play, but Belmont shut the door and closed the game on a 14-4 run. McCabe had four points, four rebounds, two assists and a block in the final quarter to help propel the Bruins to a win, Jones also added six points to provide a lift.
Nine different players scored for Belmont, and six different players scored at least eight points. The Bruins assisted on 19 of their 30 field goals.
"That's what makes playing on this team so much fun is when we play fast, push the ball up the floor and everyone makes a read. We find the open shots, but go from a good shot, to a great shot. Right now I think that's what's making us so successful, we're unselfish with the basketball, and it's fun to play with," added Maggard.
The Bruins improve to 19-1 over their last 20 home games and over its last 21 OVC games including last season's conference tournament, Belmont is 20-1.
Belmont returns to action Saturday, Jan. 14 when it travels to Morehead State for a battle with the Eagles.