NASHVILLE, Tenn.- After a week away from game competition, the Belmont University women's basketball team (16-5, 8-0) returns to league play this Saturday, Jan. 28 when it travels across town to Tennessee State (8-10, 3-5) for a 5:30 p.m. Central time tilt with the Lady Tigers.
"We are anxious to get back on the court and play again after having our open week. Tennessee State is a very athletic team that can play fast and disruptive and they have a number of weapons offensively. They are a veteran team with Johnson and Davis leading the way and they have played very well at home this year. We have the utmost respect for Coach Inman and his illustrious career in the OVC and he will have his team ready to compete" said Belmont Head Coach Cameron Newbauer.
The Bruins, who have opened Ohio Valley Conference play 8-0 for the first time since joining the league, have won 10-consecutive games and most recently knocked off Tennessee Tech, 89-76 at home on Jan. 21. Redshirt-junior Kylee Smith (Alpharetta, Ga.) scored 21 points and dished out a career-high eight assists in the Bruins' victory over the Golden Eagles. Smith, who leads the team in scoring at 14.3 points per game, was named the College Sports Madness OVC Player of the Week after guiding Belmont to wins over Jacksonville State and Tennessee Tech and averaging over 18.5 points per game.
Belmont leads the OVC in scoring (75.5) which ranks it top 30 nationally and leads the league in field goal percentage (.442). In addition the Bruins are the league's top team in terms of assists, assist to turnover ratio and rebound margin.
Darby Maggard (Larwill, Ind.) continues to build on an impressive sophomore campaign, leading the conference in three-pointers made, three-point percentage, assist to turnover ratio and ranking second in assists. As of this Monday, Maggard was the only player in all of Division I ranked top 10 in both three-pointers made and three-point percentage. Junior Sally McCabe (Mt. Juliet, Tenn.) leads the OVC with 66 blocked shots, already surpassing her total from last season. McCabe is the Bruins' third leading scorer and her 7.6 rebounds pace Belmont and rank fifth in the conference.
Tennessee State enters Saturday's matchup 8-10 overall including a 3-5 mark in OVC play. The Lady Tigers, who have dropped three out of their last four games, fell in their most recent action at SIUE this past Wednesday, 73-52. Preseason All-OVC selection Jayda Johnson leads the Lady Tigers in scoring at 13.8 points per game and in assists at 2.8. Johnson led the team in scoring a season ago and has over 1,100 points in her career. Imani Davis, also a Preseason All-OVC honoree, is the team's leading rebounder at 7.1 per contest and like Johnson has scored over 1,000 points in her career. TSU has struggled on the road, playing to a 2-8 mark in games outside of the Gentry Center, but at home its 5-1. TSU leads the conference averaging 10.6 steals per game and features three seniors in its projected starting five.
Belmont holds a 28-11 mark against Tennessee State all time. After losing to Tennessee State 70-53 in the 2014-15 regular season finale, the Bruins defeated TSU three times last season including a 68-60 win against the Lady Tigers in the opening round of the OVC Tournament. McCabe and Maggard each scored in double figures in the postseason victory over TSU despite the Bruins shooting just 4-of-20 from three-point range. Before meeting in the postseason, Belmont won at Tennessee State in late January, 80-65 and then again at home in late February, 71-51.
Including last season's run through the OVC Tournament, Belmont is 24-1 in its last 25 OVC games and has won 14-straight.
Belmont has won 10 or more consecutive games in back-to-back seasons for just the third time in program history and just the second time since turning Division I in 1997-98. Belmont's 16-5 start is its best start through 21 games since the 2006-07 campaign when it began 17-4 and eventually qualified for its first-ever NCAA Tournament appearance.
After competing at Tennessee State, Belmont returns home on Wednesday, Feb. 1 to host SIUE. Wednesday marks Game Show Night at the Curb Event Center.
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