MURRAY, Ky.- The Belmont University women's basketball team (19-5, 11-0) won its 13th straight game as defeated Murray State (12-11, 4-6) 87-69 in a shootout Saturday evening between the league's top two scoring teams at the CFSB Center.
The Bruins improved to 11-0 in league play behind dazzling shooting from sophomore point guard Darby Maggard (Larwill, Ind.), who finished with 24 points. Maggard tied her career high with eight made three-pointers and registered a game-high seven assists. Maggard connected on 8-of-12 from distance and scored 15 second half points.
Belmont's front court put up impressive numbers as Sally McCabe (Mt. Juliet, Tenn.) totaled 17 points and nine rebounds and Lauren Thompson (Franklin, Tenn.) scored 16 to go with eight rebounds. Kylee Smith (Alpharetta, Ga.) scored 11 to round out a group of four Bruins to score double figures.
Belmont held a 30-0 edge in second chance points and outscored the Racers 44-18 in the paint. Belmont outrebounded MSU, 47-18.
"We are very proud of these young ladies and what they did tonight on the road at Murray State. Murray State hit some big time shots, especially its 12 three-pointers. For our team to stay the course and keep fighting for 40 minutes on the road was great to watch. I thought we did a good job of sharing the ball and finding the open person at the right times. I really love the selflessness that these ladies play with and their passion and love for each other," said Belmont Head Coach Cameron Newbauer.
The Bruins led 50-43 at the half, but outscored Murray State 37-26 in the second half to record their 11th road victory of the season which ties UCONN for the most in all of NCAA Division I this season. Belmont shot above 54% in each half as the Racers cooled off to shoot 36% in the second half after a hot-shooting 48% clip in the first twenty minutes of action.
"In the second half we turned it up. They're a tough team, they're never going to quit and they're always going to give us a game. The thing that I love about our team is that we offensive rebounded like crazy today. We had I think 19 assists tonight so that just means we're moving the ball really well. I'm just really proud of our team, we're coming along and it's good," said Maggard after the game.
Murray's Bria Bethea led all scorers with 26 points and Bethea along with Ke'Shunan James and LeAsia Wright combined to score 66 of the Racers 69 points. Both teams finished with double digit three-pointers as Belmont shot 10-of-24 (41.7%) and the Racers 12-22 (54.5%). The Racers started the game 10-of-15 from beyond the arc as the teams battled back and forth for most of the contest before the Bruins pulled away late.
Jenny Roy (Brentwood, Tenn.) came through with a solid all around game, scoring eight points, grabbing seven rebounds and dishing out five assists.
The Bruins improve to 10-0 when scoring 80 or more points and finished with 19 or more assists for sixth time in their last seven games.
After the first quarter Belmont led Murray State 27-20 as it tied its season best for points in a first quarter. Six different players scored a bucket for the Bruins in the opening frame as they led by as many as 11 before Murray State closed the quarter strong. Belmont got off to a 7-0 start before two minutes had gone by as its first four field goals came from four different players.
The Racers connected on five of their first eight three-point attempts.
In the first half, both teams shots north of 45% as the matchup between the league's top two offenses certainly lived up to the billing from the get go. Thompson led Belmont at the break with 12 points while Smith and Maggard each checked in with nine. Maggard surpassed her season average of assists per game in the first half alone dishing out six assists. Seven different Bruins scored baskets in the first half and three Racers were in double figures led by Wright's 15 points. Belmont shot an impressive 5-of-12 from distance in the first while Murray State shot a blistering 8-of-13 from three-point land as it seemed to have an answer to each Belmont run. The second quarter followed suit after the first as both teams were clicking offensively, Belmont and Murray played even at 23 apiece in the second quarter.
Belmont's 50 first half points were its second most scored in any first half this season trailing just the 53 it scored versus Lipscomb.
In the third, Maggard knocked down three three-pointers, accounting for Belmont's final nine points and she nailed a trey from the right wing as time expired. Belmont outscored Murray State 18-13 in the third as it was able to expand on its lead by scoring 10 second chance points in the quarter. The Bruins held the Racers to just four made field goals while connecting on seven of their own. McCabe was also a force in the third, scoring seven points as the Bruins were able to combat Murray's streaky shooting from the three-point line.
"Murray really likes to mix up their defenses and really get out and pressure and play a lot of sporadic defenses. I was just taking what was there, and I was just trying to do anything I could do to keep stretching that lead and help get us a win. We just kept going, kepting fighting and kept playing," said Maggard.
Belmont carried its momentum into the fourth as it would lead by as many as 20 in the final frame. The Bruins held Murray to just 13 fourth quarter points while scoring 19.
"Murray is a very athletic team. We knew they were going to crash the glass really hard, so that was one of things we were focusing on going into the game. We've been working on carving out and just keep backing them up more and more. It really paid of tonight," said McCabe.
The Bruins are 11-0 in conference play for the first time since joining the OVC and it's their best beginning to conference play since starting their Atlantic Sun campaign 11-0 in 2006-07.
Belmont improves to 27-1 in its last 28 OVC games including last season's conference tournament and has won 17-straight.
Belmont improves to 5-0 against Murray State since joining the OVC in 2012-13.
Thompson finished 8-of-10 from the floor as she continued her efficient shooting from the floor, ranking in the top two in field goal percentage in the OVC.
"We know that each day is a process and we have to keep focused. Every single day we get in the gym we have things we need to improve and get better on. We aren't satisfied but we are very happy," added Maggard.
BU resumes game action Wednesday, Feb. 8 when it hosts Jacksonville State for an OVC bout at the Curb Event Center.
Post Game Video Highlights: (Courtesy of Christian Sadler, Belmont Athletics)
Post Game Interviews: