Nashville, TN — The Belmont Bruins proved on Thursday that it’s not always the fastest team that wins the race.
After what was an uncharacteristically slow start, the Bruins (19-3, 9-0 Ohio Valley) picked up the pace to stop the Eastern Illinois Panthers (2-18, 1-8 Ohio Valley) in their tracks, leaving the Curb Event Center with a 59-37 victory.
There was a lack of energy on the court at the start of Thursday’s game. Both teams seemed to be lagging a beat behind, with Belmont scoring 11 points and Eastern Illinois scoring only eight by the end of the first. Even Belmont guard Darby Maggard, notorious for her three-point shooting, was sluggish throughout the first quarter.
In the middle of the second period, however, the Bruins started to come alive. The shots began to fall for Belmont, with Maggard and forward Ellie Harmeyer scoring back-to-back triples. Going into halftime, the Bruins held a slim 22-21 advantage over the Panthers, with Haymeyer and Maggard responsible for all 11 second quarter points for Belmont.
The 22 first-half points that Belmont scored was the lowest total they have had all season. Eastern Illinois had not allowed Belmont to get further than three points ahead the entire first half.
At the start of the third quarter, Panther forward Jennifer Nehls drained a triple to tie up the score at 24. Not allowing Eastern Illinois to take the lead, Belmont guard Sierra Jones backfired with a layup, putting the Bruins back on top. Up until the four-minute mark, the teams went back and forth with baskets.
Much like in past games, Belmont started to slightly separate itself in the third frame from its opponent as the home crowd began to awaken. The Bruins went on a 10-2 run to end the third, going into the final quarter with their biggest lead, 38-31.
The Bruins went on an all-out shooting assault to start the fourth stanza, outscoring the Panthers 21-6 to put the game out of distance.
With the victory, Belmont tallied its 34th-straight win in conference play.
Maggard led all players in scoring with 17, her 20th double-digit scoring game of the season. Ellie Harmeyer produced her second career double-double, with 15 points and 11 rebounds.
Harmeyer shared some thoughts on her team's see-saw performance from the first half to the second.
“We are a three-point shooting team, that's what we love to do here at Belmont. So, I think that shooting-wise, our shots weren’t falling, we were getting great looks—all the looks that we wanted, but our shots just weren’t falling,” Harmeyer shared.
“We were a little bit more dialed in during the second half.”
Maggard made four three-pointers in the second half, while the Bruins collectively outrebounded the Panthers 46-32. Belmont's 19-3 start is their best start since the 1993-94 campaign (they started off 20-2).
Belmont concludes its four-game homestand on Saturday when they face SIU-Edwardsville.
Belmont takes the win against Eastern Illinois. A 22-point win, at that!Posted by Swish Appeal on Thursday, January 25, 2018