MURRAY, Ky. – As they have each of the last 40-odd times Darby Maggard has attempted a free throw, her three shots from the line Thursday against Murray State slipped casually and triumphantly through the net. The final two, though, were a bit different than the rest.
Maggard's free throws helped ice the Belmont's 65-58 women's basketball win over the Racers, but they also tied and then surpassed the Ohio Valley Conference record for consecutively made freebies. Dating back to last season, the senior Bruins guard has made 45 straight free-throw attempts, which is also the second-longest active streak in the nation.
Maggard (Larwill, Ind.) passes former Murray State great Paige Guffey, who made 44 in a row during the 2008-09 season. Maggard is 25-of-25 shooting free throws this season.
"That's really cool. I didn't know that, but I'm really excited," said Maggard upon learning of her latest record. "Hopefully I can keep it going."
Belmont, which improved to 13-5 on the year with a 6-1 mark in OVC games, was 6-of-8 at the line overall in the final quarter to fend off the Racers' late push.
"Being able to step up to the line with confidence and just know you're going to knock it down is something I love about this team," continued Maggard, who was one of four Bruins in double figures scoring with 17 points. "We continue to get better there in practice and each game we play. I was so proud of how we got to the line and the way we finished the game today."
Murray State (6-12, 2-5 OVC) led through most of the first quarter before Belmont caught fire in the second. The Bruins closed the half on a 14-2 stretch, eight of those points coming from Maggard. The run extended to into the third quarter and topped out at 18-2 to gave Belmont its largest lead of the game, 41-27.
But the Racers didn't go away. Murray State chipped at the deficit, drawing as near as 61-58 with 2:14 to play. When the Bruins needed it most, their defense locked into gear and held the Racers scoreless the rest of the way.
Belmont is now on a season-best five-game winning streak. Thursday's victory was by far its closest with the first four wins coming by an average of 27.5 points, none by fewer than 23.
A close game can be a good thing though, Belmont junior Maddie Wright (Chattanooga, Tenn.) said.
"It does prepare us because we haven't been in a tight situation like that for a little bit," Wright said. "We need to be able to handle that pressure and stay calm and weather the storm."
Behind Maggard, Ellie Harmeyer (Kenosha, Wis.) was a solid 7-of-8 at the free-throw line and scored 15 points. Maura Muensterman (Evansville, Ind.) and Wright both added 10 points with the latter pulling down 11 rebounds for her first double-double of the season.
Belmont will look to keep its run going Saturday when the Bruins continue OVC play at Austin Peay. The team has plenty to work on in the coming days, Maggard said, but this is a squad that can adjust and learn from its mistakes.
"You would much rather learn from a win than a loss," Maggard said. "We're excited to get back out there again and play. Austin Peay is a really good team. We want to take the good stuff from this game and hopefully build on it."