EVANSVILLE, Ind. – A barrage of threes down the stretch helped No. 1 Belmont get past a pesky No. 8 Murray State squad in the first round of the OVC tournament inside the Ford Center Wednesday afternoon. The Bruins defeated the Racers, 88-64, to extend its winning streak to 20 games and 44 consecutive OVC contests.
Ten threes in the final 13 minutes of the game helped propel the Bruins past the Racers who had made it one-point game just seconds before the BU scoring frenzy from beyond the arc. Junior guard Darby Maggard (Larwill, Ind.) led the charge, throwing in four to bring her point total to 15 on the day. She was joined by Kylee Smith (Alpharetta, Ga.) who scored a team-best 21 points while collecting 10 rebounds for her second consecutive double-double.
Belmont (29-3) also saw extensive contributions from senior center Sally McCabe (Mt. Juliet, Tenn.) along with junior guards Maura Muensterman (Evansville, Ind.) and Jenny Roy (Brentwood, Tenn.). McCabe also registered a double-double with 19 points and a season-best 13 rebounds. Roy was the third Bruin to collected double figure rebounds with 10 of her own, while Muensterman accounted for 12 points on a 4-for-6 performance from three-point distance.
Murray State (11-19) was powered by its senior duo, Ke'Shunan James and Bria Bethea, who combined for 38 points. Bethea tallied 21 while James had 17 and 11 rebounds for the Racers. The veterans were joined by Abria Gulledge who also scored 15 for MSU.
The Bruins got out on a roll to start, pouring in eight unanswered before allowing the Racers to get a bucket. The early run helped sustain the squad's lead throughout the first half despite Murray State coming within two possessions on a couple of occasions. Playing in her hometown, Muensterman got settled in quickly, draining a triple on her first play of the game to put BU up, 18-9, at the 3:34 mark. The Racers stayed within striking distance with the help of a 5-for-7 performance from the field down the stretch of the first stanza. Belmont led by six, 20-14, after a period of play.
Welcome home, Maura! The guard drains a three on her possession playing in her hometown!— Belmont WBasketball (@BelmontWBB) February 28, 2018
BU leads, 16-9, with 3:05 remaining in the first.
Senior guard Sierra Jones (Huntsville, Ala.) netted the first five points for the Bruins in the opening minutes of the second, sinking a three-pointer with just a few seconds expired. The team once again took control early before suffering a four-minute scoring drought that allowed Murray State to get four points back. Muensterman once again found favor behind the arc, hitting a trey that snapped the scoreless span. The Bruins held on to a 32-25 lead at the half.
After McCabe scored six quick points to force a Murray State timeout, the Racers mounted a 6-0 run of their own to make it a three-point game, 38-35. They continued to put the pressure on the Bruins, to come within a point with four minutes remaining in the third. From then on both squads traded buckets with BU always keeping the edge. Back-to-back threes from Maggard helped Belmont push its lead back to six points, 51-46, down the stretch. It wasn't until the last two minutes that BU woke up, sinking three-consecutive threes.
Four consecutive treys, three courtesy of Maggard, in the final two minutes of the third puts the Bruins back up by 10, 58-48.— Belmont WBasketball (@BelmontWBB) February 28, 2018
The long-range shooting carried over into the fourth as Belmont hit six field goals in a row from three-point distance. Over the span of five minutes the Bruins mounted a 28-10 run that halted Murray State's comeback bid. BU continued to distance themselves from the Racers for the remainder of the game with junior guard Hannah Harmeyer (Kenosha, Wisc.) sealing the deal on back-to-back three pointers in the final minutes.
- The win marks Belmont's seventh consecutive OVC Tournament win and their first over Murray State in the tournament.
- Belmont extends its winning streak to 20 games, the fifth longest streak in the nation and second longest in school history.
- The Bruins have won their last 44 consecutive OVC games, boasting the second longest streak in the nation behind No. 1 UConn (96).
- This marks the first season that BU as won 29 games in its Division I era, and its first since the 1993-94 campaign. It's 29-3 record is also its best since 1993-94.
- No. 22 Belmont's national ranking in the AP poll is its first-ever appearance in the Top-25 and the first of any BU program, the Bruins have been ranked nationally for the past three weeks.
- The Bruins 15 three pointers mark the seventh time this season that they have drained 13+ treys in a game.
No. 1 seeded Belmont will play the winner of No. 4 Jacksonville State/No. 5 Morehead State on Friday, March 2 inside the Ford Center. Tip is slated for 1 p.m.