NASHVILLE, Tenn.- The Belmont University women's basketball team (19-5, 11-0) returns to league play Wednesday night when it welcomes Jacksonville State (10-13, 3-8) to the Curb Event Center. Tip off is slated for 6 p.m. Central time and the action will be simulcast live on the OVC Digital Network and the Bruin Sports Network with Dr. Rich Tiner on the call.
Wednesday marks "Ladies Night" as Belmont Athletics celebrates National Girls and Women in Sports Day. The festivities begin at 5 p.m. with snacks, goodies and other fun activities for all ladies in the Vince Gill Room.
"We look forward to celebrating National Girls and Women in Sports Day on Wednesday at the Curb with our incredible fans. We had a very tough, hard-fought ball game at JSU three weeks ago and know that they will come in here prepared to compete. We have a number of areas that we have been working on and Wednesday will give us a chance to see if we have improved. Our players are excited for our fans to enjoy a great game and Ladies Night in the Curb," said Belmont Head Coach Cameron Newbauer.
The Bruins, who enter the game riding a 13-game winning streak, extended the streak this past Saturday at Murray State, picking up a road win against one of the best scoring teams in the league. Behind a team-high 24 points from sophomore guard Darby Maggard (Larwill, Ind.) including eight three-pointers, Belmont pulled out an 87-69 win despite streaky shooting from the Racers. The Racers came out hot, hitting 10 of their first 15 three-pointers, but it was the visiting Bruins who held the upper hand down the stretch by exhibiting an impressive offense all game. Belmont held a 30-0 edge in second chance points and outscored the Racers 44-18 in the paint and outrebounded MSU, 47-18.
Belmont leads the OVC in scoring (76.5) which is top 25 nationally and leads the league in field goal percentage (.452). The Bruins feature four scorers in double figures including the sophomore Maggard. Kylee Smith (Alpharetta, Ga.) leads the club averaging 14.5 points per game, while Sally McCabe (Mt. Juliet, Tenn.) scores 11.9 per game and hauls in a team-best 7.6 and blocks a team-best 2.8 per game. Lauren Thompson (Franklin, Tenn.), who ranks third in the OVC with a .561 field goal percentage, averages 10.2 per game including a 13.0 points per game average over her last five games.
The Bruins have the third longest active winning streak in NCAA Division I this season trailing just Connecticut (22) and Texas (17).
Jacksonville State checks in with a 10-13 overall record including a 3-8 mark in OVC play. After winning back to back games against EKU and Morehead State, the Gamecocks have suffered consecutive losses to the SEMO and SIUE. The Gamecocks, who are 4-8 in road games this season, feature two digit scorers in seniors Briana Benson and Lacey Buchanon. Benson leads the team in scoring at 11.9 and junior Tyler Phelion paces the team in rebounding at 7.1 per contest. JSU has the best defense in the league, limiting teams to just 62.1 points per game and ranks in the top third in the league in scoring margin, field goal percentage defense, three-point percentage defense, offensive rebounding, rebounding margin and blocked shots.
Belmont is 14-3 all time against the Gamecocks and has won the past seven meetings, which includes the 54-53 victory the Bruins picked up at JSU last month.
After battling Jacksonville State, the Bruins have just two remaining home games, and return game action this Saturday when they travel to Tennessee Tech.
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Belmont's 13 consecutive wins are the longest streak of consecutive victories in its history as a Division I institution and the second longest in the program's history dating back to its days an an NAIA member.
The Bruins have started their OVC season 11-0 for the first time since joining the league in 2012-13. BU started 11-0 in the Atlantic Sun in 2006-07.
Including last season's run through the OVC Tournament, Belmont is 27-1 in its last 28 OVC games and has won 17-straight. Its last loss came at UT Martin (79-81) on Feb. 15, 2016.
Belmont's 19-5 start is its best start through 24 games since the 2006-07 campaign when it began 21-5 and eventually qualified for its first-ever NCAA Tournament appearance.
As of Feb. 6, Maggard is the only player in the nation top five in both three-pointers made (4th, 81) and three-point percentage (4th, 48.5%). Maggard has attempted 167 three's which is the most of anyone in the top 10 in percentage and the least amount in the top 10 of three's made. Maggard's 165 career three-pointers rank her ninth in program history already with less than two full seasons under her belt.
Against Murray State, Maggard dished out her 300th assist.