JACKSONVILLE, Ala.- Kylee Smith's (Alpharetta, Ga.) basket with 11 seconds left proved to be the game winner, and the Belmont University women's basketball team (15-5, 7-0) walked away with a dramatic 54-53 victory at Jacksonville State (8-10, 1-5) Wednesday evening.
Erasing a five point deficit heading into the fourth quarter, the Bruins held on for their ninth-straight victory and their 22nd win in their last 23 OVC games including last season's conference tournament.
Smith led the Bruins with 16 points and seven rebounds, and nine of her tallies came in the fourth quarter as she helped will Belmont to a gritty road win.
"I got an offensive rebound, and I knew the clock was ticking. The ball happened to be in my hands so I decided to attack and try to make a play. My team was confident in me, and I'd be just as confident if somebody else had the ball as well," said Smith.
Lauren Thompson (Franklin, Tenn.) also finished in double figures with 11 points.
Belmont trailed for over 29 minutes and its largest lead was two points. The game saw 11 ties and 11 lead changes. After trailing for the majority of the game, the Bruins were able to make the key plays down the stretch and hold on.
"Jacksonville State is tough team, and playing on the road is always hard. We started off slow but we knew we just had to keep pushing. I have full faith in my team in what we do, and at the end of the day we were able to win the game so were all happy about that," said Smith.
In a pivotal fourth quarter, the Bruins outscored JSU 15-9. After a layin by Lacey Buchanon gave Jacksonville State a 53-50 lead with 1:57 to play, Smith scored the final four points of the game, connecting on a short-floater in the lane with 59 seconds left and the eventual game winner on the Bruins' final possession. After a timeout, Jacksonville State had a chance to win it with 11 seconds left and possession, but Buchanon missed on a contested jump shot with three seconds remaining. Jenny Roy (Brentwood, Tenn.) grabbed the rebound and was fouled which sent her to the line with .4 seconds left. Roy missed both attempts and after the second, Jacksonville State called timeout and earned one last shot with .1 seconds left and an inbounds under its basket. The Gamecocks inbounded the ball but couldn't get a shot up before the horn sounded.
"I think I just had an attack mentality. I knew we needed to push the ball and move up the court. I think that was the difference in the fourth," added Smith.
BU finished 22-of-55 from the floor (40%) and 2-of-15 (13.3%) from three-point range while Jacksonville State shot 22-of-52 (42.3%) from the field. Belmont was outrebounded for just the sixth time this season as the Gamecocks held a 35-32 edge on the glass.
Roy finished with eight points, four rebounds and three assists. Darby Maggard (Larwill, Ind.) also scored eight and dished out five assists. Sally McCabe (Mt. Juliet, Tenn.) registered seven points and five blocks to round out the major contributors for the Bruins.
Belmont trailed 8-6 after the first quarter as both teams struggled to find their footing in the early going. The Bruins, whose six points in a quarter were the fewest in any frame this season, were paced by McCabe who scored all six of their points. Both teams finished the quarter shooting under 30% as the game began in a fashion similar to the 44-32 meeting between the teams last season in Jacksonville. After scoring the game's first bucket, the Gamecocks led for the entire first quarter.
Belmont faced a 28-24 deficit heading into the intermission, despite making eight of its final nine shots to end the half. After a sluggish 3-of-15 start in the first, Belmont shot an impressive 8-of-10 in the second quarter as it began to settle in. Just as Belmont settled, so did Jacksonville State as the Gamecocks made nine of their 12 shots in the frame. Maggard scored all of her six first half points in the second quarter as she had the hot hand and helped ignite the Belmont offense. The Bruin led for just 11 seconds in the first half, taking a 17-15 lead midway through the second stanza.
After three were in the books, Belmont trailed the Gamecocks 44-39 after JSU won the third, 16-15. The Bruins began the half on a 5-0 run but it was JSU who would finish the quarter strong and carry the advantage into the fourth.
The Bruins trailed heading into the fourth quarter for the first time since Dec. 14 at Minnesota.
Belmont is now 7-0 in league play for the first time since the 2006-07 season when it started 9-0 in Atlantic Sun competition.
BU has now won seven-straight against Jacksonville State; the teams will meet again in Nashville on Feb. 8.
The Bruins are the lone team undefeated in league play.
The Bruins return to action this Saturday, Jan. 21 when they play host to the Tennessee Tech Golden Eagles. Tip off against TTU is set for 1 p.m. and all students are encouraged to wear red as part of the Code Red at the Curb Event Center. The festivities begin before the men's game (11 a.m.) with the Brunch with the Bruins Tailgate from 9:30-10:30am in the Beaman. There will be Chick-Fil-A chicken minis for the first 750 fans and red foam fingers, red t-shirts, red phone wallets and more.