Sweet 16

Sweet 16

RICHMOND, Ky.- The Belmont University women's basketball team  (22-5, 14-0) tied the program record with its 16th straight victory as it pulled out a gritty, 73-67 victory at Eastern Kentucky ( 9-17, 6-7) Wednesday evening at McBrayer Arena.

Kylee Smith (Alpharetta, Ga.) led the way for the Bruins with 24 points and nine rebounds pacing a quartet of double figure scorers for Belmont. Belmont registered its NCAA Division I best 13 road victory and has now won nine straight away from the Curb Event Center.

The Bruins were outscored in the second half after leading by as many as 14, but managed to prevail with a victory making big stops and big conversions on offense down the stretch.

"We are so proud of this group of these young ladies and the toughness and togetherness they have shown this year in our road games. We just won our ninth straight road game and our 13th overall. We were tested tonight and we stuck together and made plays down the stretch to finish the game. The selflessness this group has played and practiced with day in and day out has been a lot of fun to witness. The best part is that they want to continue to improve as a team and individually which is why I can't wait to be back in the gym with them tomorrow," said Belmont Head Coach Cameron Newbauer after the hardfought victory.

Sally McCabe (Mt. Juliet, Tenn.) put forth a strong effort with 14 points, 11 rebounds and five blocks, recording her 16th career double double. Jenny Roy (Brentwood, Tenn.) and Lauren Thompson (Franklin, Tenn.) each finished with 12 points while Darby Maggard (Larwill, Ind.) scored eight along with a game-high 10 assists.

OVC Preseason Player of the Year Jalen O'Bannon led the Colonels with 23 points and nine rebounds. 

Belmont's 16 game winning streak is third longest active streak in NCAA Division I trailing just UConn (100) and Texas (19).

Belmont has won 30 of its past 31 OVC games including last season's OVC Tournament.

Belmont's 16 consecutive wins tie the program record set in the 1974-75, 1989-90 and 1993-94 seasons when Belmont was a member of the NAIA.

Belmont jumped out to a 7-0 lead, but the Colonels scored eight-straight points to lead 8-7 in the early going. At the under five media timeout, Belmont trailed EKU 12-9, but after the break in play, the Bruins executed a 7-0 run to lead 16-12 with under three minutes remaining in the frame. The Bruins outscored the Colonels 14-6 the rest of the way following the media timeout. Maggard and Thompson each tallied six points in the quarter. The first quarter saw four lead changes and one tie as the Bruins led 23-18 heading into the second.

Belmont carried a 40-28 lead into the half after Smith got hot from the field, scoring 11 points in the game's second stanza. The redshirt-junior knocked down three triples, including two during a pivotal scoring stretch. Leading just 29-24 with under five minutes left, Smith scored a three-pointer on back-to-back possessions to help the Bruins grow their lead to 11. After some struggles rebounding in the first, the Bruins outrebounded the Colonels, 15-5 in the second. In the second Belmont would outscore EKU, 17-10 to carry the momentum in the intermission. Smith had 15 first half points to lead all scorers while Maggard scored six points and dished out seven assists. Belmont shot 17-of-31 (54.8%) in the first half.

The Colonels opened up the third quarter with a 6-0 run and trimmed the gap to just six points with 7:43 to play. The Bruins stood strong and withstood the Colonel run and managed to build a 14 point lead later on in the frame. But back came EKU though with a late 8-0 run to narrow the margin to just five at 50-45 after O'Bannon connected on a field goal with 1:17 to play in the frame. Belmont led just 52-47 heading into the fourth after EKU outscored it 19-12 in the third.

Things would get even more interesting in the fourth when the Colonels tied things at 52-52 with 8:27 to play in the quarter, drawing even with Belmont for the first time since it was 12-12. Maddie Wright (Chattanooga, Tenn.) knocked down two free throws to give Belmont the lead back at 54-52, but O'Bannon scored on the ensuing possession to equalize. With 6:21 remaining, McCabe scored two free throws of her own to put Belmont back ahead. From this point forward the Bruins would not relinquish their lead. EKU would get within one at 58-57 with 5:09 to play, but Belmont would knock down the necessary free throws down the stretch to hold on for the win. Maggard, Smith and Roy all made crucial free throws in the final minute.

Belmont shot an uncharacteristic 5-of-18 from three-point range but shot an impressive 16-of-18 from the charity stripe.

Belmont's 16 consecutive wins tie the program record set in the 1974-75, 1989-90 and 1993-94 seasons when Belmont was a member of the NAIA.

The Bruins have started conference season 14-0 for the first time since transitioning into a Division I program.

Belmont improves to 15-3 all time versus Eastern Kentucky and has claimed the past eight meetings.

The Bruins outrebounded the Colonels, 47-24 and finished the game shooting 26-of-54 (48.1%) from the field. Belmont assisted on 21 of its 26 made field goals.

BU finishes its 2016-17 campaign at home with matchups the next two Saturdays. The Bruins return to floor Saturday, Feb. 18 when they host Morehead State for a 6 p.m. tilt at the Curb Event Center.