NASHVILLE, Tenn.- The Belmont Unviersity women's basketball team (14-5, 6-0) resumes conference play Wednesday, Jan. 18 when it takes on Jacksonville State (8-9, 1-4) at 7 p.m. from Pete Mathews Coliseum on the campus of JSU.
"We face another tough road challenge at JSU Wednesday night. They are one of the best defensive teams in our league and Coach Pietri does a great job of having them prepared to compete day in and day out. We are excited to have another opportunity to compete and see if we have improved since our last contest," said Belmont Head Coach Cameron Newbauer.
The Bruins won their eighth-straight game this past Saturday, as a strong second half propelled them to a 91-59 victory on the road at Morehead State. Kylee Smith (Alpharetta, Ga.) poured in a game-high 26 points while teammate Sally McCabe (Mt. Juliet, Tenn.) contributed an impressive 22 point, nine rebound and five block performance as Belmont handed the Eagles their second conference loss. In what was just a six point game at the half, BU outscored the Eagles 56-30 in the final 20 minutes fueled by 21-of-33 (63.6%) shooting from the field.
Belmont is tied for the league lead in scoring (75.9) and ranks 31st nationally and leads the league in field goal percentage (.436) and which ranks it 53rd nationally.
Jacksonville State enters the matchup with an 8-9 record including a 1-4 start to league play. The Gamecocks have fallen at UT Martin and Eastern Illinois, at home against Murray State and on the road at Tennessee Tech. JSU's largest loss was 11 points at UT Martin and it has twice lost by four or fewer points in league play. The Gamecocks' lone OVC win came against Austin Peay when it picked up a convincing 65-45 victory at home. Senior Briana Benson paces the Gamecocks with 13.2 points per game while Tyler Phelion is the team's leader rebounder at 6.7 per outing. After a five-game winning streak, JSU has dropped five of six. Jacksonville State's calling card is its defense as it ranks second in the OVC allowing just 62.8 and limits its opponents to .391 shooting from the floor, also the second-best clip in the conference. JSU's +5.0 scoring margin is the fourth highest mark in the OVC.
The Bruins are 13-3 against JSU all time, and have won the past six meetings, which includes a pair of wins last season. Most recently on Feb. 10, 2016, in the second of two meetings between the programs, Belmont picked up a 56-42 victory in Nashville behind McCabe's fourth double double of the season. Belmont also won in Jacksonville, knocking off the Gamecocks 44-32 in late January as both teams shot under 35% from the field.
Belmont's 14-5 start is its best start through 19 games since the 2006-07 campaign when it began 15-4 and eventually qualified for its first-ever NCAA Tournament appearance.
As of Jan. 17, Darby Maggard (Larwill, Ind.) is the only player in all of NCAA Division I ranked top 15 in three-pointers made (62, 5th) and three-point percentage (47.0%, 11th). Maggard's 97 assists also rank her top 30 nationally. McCabe ranks eighth in the nation with 56 blocks and 14th in blocks per game with 2.9. McCabe has twice blocked seven shots in a game, once against UAB and once against SEMO. Over her last four games, the reigning OVC Defensive Player of the Year has 22 blocks.
After its journey to Jacksonville State, Belmont returns to the friendly confines of the Curb Event Center Saturday, Jan. 21 when it hosts Tennessee Tech for a 1 p.m. tip.
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