NASHVILLE, Tenn. – No. 22 Belmont women's basketball begins its quest for a third-straight OVC Tournament title on Wednesday, Feb. 28 in Evansville, Ind. at the Ford Center. The Bruins enter the tournament as the No. 1 seed and will face No. 8 seeded Murray State. Tip-off is slated for 1 p.m.
ABOUT THE BRUINS
Belmont rolled through conference play, winning its final two games by an average of 36.5 points to finish off their second consecutive undefeated OVC season. The squad has won its last 37-straight regular season conference games and 43-consecutive including OVC tournament contests. BU moves to 28-3 overall and 18-0 in league play.
BU's offensive production has been led by veterans Kylee Smith (Alpharetta, Ga.), Sally McCabe (Mt. Juliet, Tenn.) and Darby Maggard (Larwill, Ind.) who are all averaging at least 14.4 points per game. As a team, the Bruins are averaging 78.8 points while shooting an impressive .469 clip from the field - a mark that ranks 16th in the nation. Belmont leads the conference in assists, scoring offense, scoring margin, field goal percentage, assist turnover ratio, and three-point field goals made.
The squad has out-rebounded their opponents in all but five games, winning all such contests while averaging 42.5 rebounds per game. BU is outscoring its opponents by a margin of 19.4 points, having poured in at least 70 points in all but seven of its games.
LAST TIME AROUND
The Bruins only met the Racers once in regular season play, defeating Murray State, 70-65, inside the Curb Event Center. Darby Maggard let the squad with 16 points while Kylee Smith (15 points) Sally McCabe (14 points) and Maura Muensterman (Evansville, Ind.) (12) follow close behind. McCabe also compiled 12 rebounds and a career-best eight blocks in the victory.
BRUINS HAVE POLL
Boasting a 28-3 record while riding a 19-game winning streak was enough to help the Bruins move up a spot to No. 22 in the latest version of AP Top 25 poll. Belmont turned in a program-best 110 votes, improving from 98 tallies the previous week. It's the first time in history that any BU squad has been ranked nationally, and the first time since 1992 that an OVC school has been ranked (No. 22 Tennessee Tech on Dec. 22). The Bruins are also receiving 10 votes in the USA Today Coaches poll, marking the second time in program history they've received votes in the Coaches poll (2007).
As the regular season comes to a close, the Bruins have climbed their way up the mid-major rankings throughout the year, finishing on top. In ESPNW's final mid-major poll of the 2017-18 season, Belmont made its debut as the best of its kind in the country. The squad surpassed Green Bay in both the ESPNW poll as well as the CollegeInsider.com to unanimously earn the No. 1 spot.
Belmont's 28-3 record on the season is its best since 1993-94 where they held a 29-2 mark in their first 31 games. The squad is one of four teams in the country to have reached the 28-win plateau so far this season - the only mid-major to do so. This is also the fastest BU has reached 28 wins since the 1993-94 campaign, having done so in 30 games. It's the first time in the program's Division I era that the Bruins have registered a 28-win season.
Maura Muensterman returns to her hometown of Evansville, Ind. for the conference tournament. The junior guard attended high school at Mater Dei where she helped her team to a pair of 2A State Championships (2012 & 2013) as well as a runner-up finish her final season (2014). She also holds the Indiana prep record for career assists. This will be her first time playing in Evansville since graduating high school.
COOKIN' IN CONFERENCE
Belmont's 43-straight conference wins ranks second in the nation - only to No. 1 UConn (96) - in consecutive victories against conference foes. The Bruins are followed by Drake (39). Their 43-game winning streak against league opponents is the longest of any OVC school previously in women's basketball history (29 by Tennessee Tech is the second longest from 1989-91). They're the first team in OVC history to register back-to-back undefeated conference campaigns.
Over the last three years, the veteran trio of Kylee Smith, Sally McCabe and Darby Maggard has made a stamp on Belmont women's basketball. Collectively, the three have carved their names in BU's all-time record book 17 times while making 22 impressions in the Top 5 in Belmont's DI records. They have started 79 games together and accounted for 4,056 career points. The veterans have all registered 1,400+ career points during their time together at Belmont, something that's never been done in program history.
A LEAGUE OF THEIR OWN
After winning their first OVC regular season championship last year, the Bruins won their second-straight regular season league title. Belmont women's basketball has dominated the Ohio Valley Conference the last three seasons, compiling a 47-3 mark against such opponents during the regular season. They've also won back-to-back OVC tournament titles to earn consecutive NCAA tournament berths. After 18 conference games, BU averaged 76.2 points per game while shooting .469 from the field. BU outscored its league foes by a margin of +19.0 points.
Belmont's 19-game winning streak is the second longest in program history, only trailing last season's 21-straight wins. The Bruins have collected at least 10 consecutive wins in each of the last three campaign's, doing so for the first time in program history. The 19 wins in a row is the fifth longest active streak in the nation.
2018 OVC TOURNAMENT
The 2018 Ohio Valley Conference Men's and Women's Basketball Championships presented by VisitMyrtleBeach.com, will be held February 28 through March 3 at the Ford Center in Evansville, Indiana. For ticket information, call 615-460-BALL or log onto belmontbruins.com/tickets and select the OVC Tournament Tickets link. Exact seating location will be assigned based on level of priority.
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