NASHVILLE, Tenn. – After a slow and sometimes grueling opening half Thursday, Belmont and Jacksonville State turned up the pace in the second half.
Exactly to the Bruins' liking.
Behind a track-meet tempo, the Belmont women's basketball team ran away with a 66-52 victory in its 2018-19 Ohio Valley Conference opener, the 47th consecutive win over conference opponents overall for the Bruins. Belmont (8-4, 1-0 OVC), the three-time defending OVC Tournament champion, has not lost a conference game since the 2015-16 season.
Looking to end that streak of dominance, Jacksonville State employed its typical high-pressure defense and slow-down offense to great success early on at the Curb Event Center. The Gamecocks (6-6, 0-1 OVC) led by as many as six points midway through the second quarter. Then Belmont found its rhythm.
The Bruins closed the first half on an 11-0 run – a sign of things to come – to pull into intermission with a 26-21 advantage.
"Our shots started to fall and we started to get rebounds," said Belmont junior forward Ellie Harmeyer (Kenosha, Wis.), the reigning OVC Player of the Week who notched her third straight double-double in Thursday's win.
"We always say it starts on the defensive end and we did a lot better job of sitting down, keeping the basketball in front of us and not giving them easy looks. That was a huge contributor to our success on the offensive end."
Belmont exploded for 40 second-half points, making six 3-pointers that helped stretch the lead. Another dominant run pushed the Bruins ahead by as many as 19 in the fourth quarter.
Belmont enjoyed success in high- and low-scoring games alike in non-conference play this season, noted Belmont senior Darby Maggard (Larwill, Ind.). Lessons learned there will continue to come in handy the rest of the year as the Bruins shoot for a fourth straight OVC championship.
"One of the awesome things about this team, no matter who's on the other side of the ball, whether they want to speed you up or slow you down, we're going to be able play our game, grind out games," Maggard said.
Maggard and Harmeyer provided a potent 1-2 punch for the Bruins, combining for 42 points with each shooting 50 percent from the floor or better. Maggard's 19 points played the supporting role for another massive day from Harmeyer, who scored 23 to go with 11 rebounds.
In her past three games, Harmeyer is averaging 20.0 points and 10.3 rebounds.
"We wouldn't be where we are without her," Maggard said of Harmeyer. "I'm so thankful and blessed to be able to play with her out there. She adds a completely different dimension to our team. It's amazing what she's doing really."
Up Next: Belmont puts its league winning streak on the line again this Saturday at the Curb when Tennessee Tech (9-3, 1-0 OVC) comes to town. Tip off against the Golden Eagles is slated for 3 p.m.