COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – Darby Maggard has a history of rising to the occasion when her team needs her most. Facing a Tennessee Tech team Saturday that handed Belmont its only Ohio Valley Conference loss of the season, Maggard reached an even higher level.
The senior All-America candidate from Larwill, Ind., piled up a career-high 34 points to help the Belmont women's basketball team enact revenge against the Golden Eagles at Tech's Eblen Center. Maggard knocked down five 3-pointers and was instrumental in a second-half surge when Belmont really put its foot on the gas.
A 32-point fourth quarter helped push the Bruins (20-5, 13-1 OVC) over the 20-win plateau for a fourth straight season and extend the team's lead atop the conference standings. Belmont leads a group of pursuers – which includes Tech (18-7, 10-4 OVC) – by three games with four left to play in the regular season.
**Stat Correction**— Belmont WBasketball (@BelmontWBB) February 17, 2019
One 3-pointer was incorrectly assigned to Maggard tonight. She finished with 34 points, still a career high!
Maggard's 34 points were part of a greater 99-point effort for Belmont, the team's second-best total on the season. The Bruins played within their tempo and executed extremely well on the offensive end, Maggard said.
"I felt like tonight was one of the better nights we've had of consistently doing that," said Maggard, who scored eight points during a 14-0 run that boosted Belmont's lead to a game-high 35 late in the fourth quarter. "When it got to the fourth quarter, it kind of wore them down a little bit and we ended up getting really good looks."
Maggard scored 24 points in the second half alone and finished 5-of-8 from behind the 3-point line to help extend her OVC record for career threes. The guard has now made 398 triples in her illustrious Belmont career, tied for the fifth most in NCAA Division I history.
Belmont had a little extra motivation coming into Saturday's clash after Tennessee Tech escaped Nashville with a 77-72 road win on Jan. 5, Belmont's first loss to an OVC foe in nearly three years. That snapped a 47-game win streak over conference opponents for the Bruins.
Belmont has started a new streak however. The Bruins have won 12 straight games, all in league play.
"Game 2 (against Tech), I think the biggest thing we wanted to do was prove that we were tougher than the first game," said Belmont junior Maddie Wright (Chattanooga, Tenn.), who scored 19 points and grabbed eight rebounds. "We've just got to keep grinding it day in and day out and get tougher every single day."
Crucial to Belmont's victory was its advantage at the free-throw line where Belmont shot 25-of-31, a season best. Junior Ellie Harmeyer (Kenosha, Wis.) was 9-of-10 at the line, part of a 19-point day for her to go with 13 rebounds, and Maggard was 5-of-5.
Just as important was how few free throws Tech took. The nation's No. 8 team in terms of free-throw percentage, Tennessee Tech didn't attempt a free throw until the final minute of the third quarter. Clean defense in the key was the driving factor in that differential.
"We wanted to make sure we contested without fouling and just made everything they do hard," Maggard said. "I felt like today we did a really good job of doing that. Kept the ball in front of us, stayed down and stayed consistent with our defensive effort the entire game."
Up Next: Belmont returns home for its final two games of the season at the Curb Event Center next week. The Bruins host Eastern Illinois on Thursday at 5 p.m. and SIU Edwardsville next Saturday at 3 p.m.