EVANSVILLE, Ind. – For the second straight game, Southeast Missouri couldn't miss a shot. For the second straight game, the Belmont women's basketball team found a way to win anyway.
The Bruins came from behind to top hot-shooting SEMO at the Ford Center on Wednesday, 74-65, and advance to the OVC Tournament semifinals for the seventh straight season. The three-time defending champions and top-seeded Bruins (24-6) will play Friday for a spot in the OVC title game against the winner of Thursday's other first round game, featuring No. 5 Austin Peay and No. 4 Tennessee Tech.
Belmont and eighth-seeded SEMO closed out the regular season with a close one this past Saturday and Wednesday's Round 2 had a similar feel. After making 45.6 percent of their shots in last week's 92-86 final, the Redhawks (13-17) upped the accuracy and shot 52.5 percent from the field in the opening round of the tournament. Both games ended in single-digit Belmont wins though.
"Just the toughness to fight through adversity today," began Belmont Head Coach Bart Brooks. "It wasn't a pretty or beautifully executed game like we've played at times, but to me it's even more beautiful because of the toughness that we showed down the stretch."
The Bruins adjusted defensively after the quick turnover to clamp down on SEMO sophomore Tesia Thompson, the OVC's leading scorer. After she and freshman Carrie Shephard combined for 53 points and 10-of-13 from 3-point range on Saturday, Belmont limited the duo to a modest 18 points Wednesday.
Neither Shephard nor Thompson made a 3-pointer.
"Obviously we knew SEMO was a really good basketball team and we played them tight on Saturday too," said Belmont senior Darby Maggard (Larwill, Ind.) "But we knew what we were getting, which was nice. We remembered the game very thoroughly, and we knew it was going to be a fight."
Still, SEMO led by as many as eight points, 47-39, with four minutes remaining in the third quarter. Maggard and junior teammate Ellie Harmeyer (Kenosha, Wis.) took over from there.
Maggard scored 16 of her 21 points for the game after that point, and Harmeyer was an ace at the free-throw line to help her pair 24 points with a career-high-tying 14 rebounds. In all, the Bruins shot 19-of-27 at the free-throw line while limiting SEMO to just two free-throw attempts.
They missed both.
"Those matter. I know it's only one point or two points, but if you make your free throws it's a whole different ball game," Harmeyer said. "We had to clean up the defensive glass and then with three or two minutes left, they had to foul us because they had to get the ball back. The free throws made a huge difference in this game."
Senior Jenny Roy (Brentwood, Tenn.) chipped in nine rebounds and a game-high eight assists in yet another all-around performance that made OVC women's basketball history. With six points, Roy surpassed 1,000 points for her career to become the first player in the 42-year history of the league with 1,000 points (1,005 to be exact), 800 rebounds (874) and 400 assists (475).
Belmont continues its hunt for a fourth straight OVC championship and NCAA appearance at 1 p.m. Friday.