NASHVILLE, TN - The No. 24 Belmont Bruins continued their stranglehold over the Ohio Valley Conference on Saturday, beating the Morehead State Eagles 80-56 to win the conference regular season title outright.
The Bruins (26-3, 16-0 OVC) must have stepped out on the court today with the word defense on their mind, because they refused to let Morehead State (19-10, 10-6) get near the basket.
The Bruins pulled out a thrilling 11-0 run to start the game before Morehead State's Miranda Crockett was finally able to crack the streak with 4:06 left in the first. Belmont’s Jenny Roy came in hot, dominating the paint with five rebounds in the first quarter as the Bruins closed it out with a 17-6 lead.
Morehead State picked up the pace in the second quarter and attempted to close that 11-point gap. Forward Eriel McKee, who finished with a game total of 22 points and 5 rebounds, drained a triple followed by a jumper to bring Morehead State within six. With the Eagles beginning to gain some steam, the Bruins knew they needed to bring up their offensive momentum — which is exactly what happened.
Darby Maggard stepped up her game, finishing with nine points and four assists going into the half. As a result, Belmont led by 11 points, 35-24, at intermission.
Belmont forward Kylee Smith (17 pts, 11 reb) talked after the game about how Belmont needed to keep focused more often.
“We went in the locker room and knew that we had to finish," Smith said. "We just want to keep playing our game and focus on ourselves and I think that showed when I saw our stats and there are so many people with incredible numbers. We share the ball and its just so much fun. That’s why I know we succeed."
Coming back after the half expecting to see a change in pace for the Eagles, the Bruins were even more on fire than before. Having Kylee Smith and Darby Maggard on that court at the same time was a recipe for disaster, thwarting any Morehead State attempt at a comeback. Belmont finished the quarter with a 53-36 lead, inspired to finish Morehead State off.
The final period of this match up was a series of incredible offensive plays by Belmont. Halfway through the fourth, the Bruins had already widened the gap to 22 points and weren't looking back. Morehead State scored 20 points in the quarter, but it wasn't enough to keep up with Belmont's relentless scoring attack.
Belmont's Kylee Smith and Darby Maggard (14 pts, 10 reb) finished with double-doubles as the Bruins won their 41st consecutive conference game, the second-longest streak behind UConn (94 straight American Athletic Conference wins).
Belmont head coach Bart Brooks, shared his overall thoughts on todays game.
”I was really proud of how they continued to battle," Brooks said. "Things weren’t easy for us for a good stretch in the middle of the game and then we continued to battle and shots started to fall for us.”
Belmont has two more games left in the season, and have a strong chance to finish undefeated in the Ohio Valley Conference for the second straight season.