EVANSVILLE, Ind. – For the fifth time in six seasons, the Belmont women's basketball team is playing on Championship Saturday.
With a 62-48 semifinal victory over Tennessee Tech on Friday – in which senior standout Darby Maggard (Larwill, Ind.) eclipsed 2,000 career points – the Bruins advanced to the Ohio Valley Conference Tournament title game Saturday. There they will defend their conference crown and look for a fourth straight OVC championship and berth in the ensuing NCAA Tournament.
The Bruins (25-6) will go for four at 2 p.m. Saturday in a rematch of last season's championship against No. 3 UT Martin (23-8), which topped second-seed Morehead State in Friday's other semifinal, 68-58.
That game will stream live on ESPN+ and the Watch ESPN app.
To get to Saturday, the top-seeded Bruins had to deal with an upstart Tech team that got the best of them at home in the regular season this year. The Golden Eagles (21-10) came out firing, but the vaunted Belmont defense clamped down to hold TTU to its second lowest scoring output of the season. After starting the game 5-of-7 shooting from the field, Tech made just five of its next 27 attempts.
"Coach always says in the end it's going to be about defense and D glass," Belmont junior forward Maddie Wright (Chattanooga, Tenn.) said of the team's emphasis on defense and rebounding. "It's doing what we do, but every day getting a little better at it. Keep working and pushing."
Maggard made two 3-pointers in the game's opening four minutes to hit 2,000 career points even, becoming just the 19th player in OVC women's basketball history to reach the milestone. She didn't score again until the second half, but then her clutch shooting helped Belmont extend its lead to as many as 19 points in the fourth quarter. She finished with 18 points overall and nine assists.
The 5-foot-5 point guard is the fourth Belmont player to ever score 2,000 points, the first in the program's NCAA era.
"It's pretty cool, but I just try to go out every single day and be the best version of myself that I can be," said Maggard, who now has 2,012 career points, of surpassing 2,000. "Whatever my team needs that day for us to win, that's what I'm going to do. I know when I'm out there and I've got an open shot, I'm going to take it; if I have teammates that are open, I'm going to pass them the ball and they'll get the job done too."
Wright notched her second double-double of the season with 11 points and 10 rebounds in a well-rounded support effort from the Bruins. Freshman Conley Chinn (Jackson, Miss.) and senior Jenny Roy (Brentwood, Tenn.) each chipped in nine points – Roy also grabbed eight rebounds with four assists – and junior Maura Muensterman (Evansville, Ind.) scored eight points.
It's a quick turnaround now for the Bruins, who have won 11 straight OVC Tournament games across the past four seasons. Belmont and UT Martin split their two meetings earlier this season and played into overtime in the 2018 OVC championship game, which the Bruins won 63-56.
"We've had a lot of success, but we're not done yet," Muensterman said. "We're not satisfied. We're working and getting better every single day and focusing on the task at hand."