CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. – Chattanooga came out with fire Monday, but the Belmont women's basketball team was determined to put an end to a stretch of dominance the Mocs have enjoyed for too long.
The Bruins rallied from an early deficit at McKenzie Arena to capture the 67-51 victory, a first over their in-state rivals in 40 years. Belmont (6-3) had not won against the Mocs since Nov. 30, 1978 and hadn't beaten them in Chattanooga since Valentine's Day 1977.
The way the first quarter went, the Mocs (4-8) looked to be heading toward a 10th straight win in the series. The home side leapt out to a 20-14 advantage through a quarter.
Undeterred, Belmont doubled down on its efforts in the post. After being outscored in the paint 12-2 in the opening frame, the Bruins enjoyed a 30-12 advantage in the key from that moment on.
"We always talk about when the ball goes inside, we get good things to happen," said Belmont junior Maddie Wright, a Chattanooga, Tenn., native. "Whether it's finding somebody open on the outside or getting a post touch and scoring a layup, it's important to get the ball inside and get the defense having to think about guarding our shooters on the outside."
An 18-2 run in the second quarter, the heart of which was a 13-0 spurt propelled by eight Jenny Roy (Brentwood, Tenn.) points, handed Belmont its first lead since the opening minutes. A Maura Muensterman (Evansville, Ind.) 3-pointer with 1:53 to play in the half put the Bruins ahead for good.
The Bruins' play in the paint opened up the outside for such 3-point attacks. Belmont hit nine triples, its sixth game with as many already this year.
Roy and fellow senior Darby Maggard (Larwill, Ind.) led the way with 13 points apiece, while Roy also added seven rebounds, six assists and four steals. Behind them, Wright and freshman Macie Culbertson (Fall Branch, Tenn.) chipped in 11 points each in a well-rounded scoring performance.
"We started out a little rough and I knew some of us had to step up. We couldn't just rely on the starters," said Culbertson, whose 11 points and six rebounds were both career highs. "I got in a rhythm and we all just started connecting, playing Belmont basketball. It felt really good."
The landmark win meant even more to Wright. Playing in front of a sizable hometown cheering section that stood out among the crowd of 1,367, Wright notched her second straight game with a double-figure point total.
"This gym has a lot of history. I grew up coming to camps here, imagining myself playing in this gym," Wright began. "God had different plans for me and I got to come to Belmont, but the chance to come back here and get a win is something I'll never forget. It was an awesome experience."
Up next: Belmont hosts Arkansas State on Friday for a matinee game at the Curb Event Center. Tipoff is slated for noon. The contest can be streamed through ESPN+.