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No. 23 Belmont scary good, find out why

The no. 23 Belmont Bruins leaned on senior Kylee Smith on Saturday, and she delivered in a big way, scoring 30 points to lead the Bruins to an 84-42 victory over the Tennessee State Tigers.

Belmont wins over Presbyterian 90-48 at Belmont University in the Curb Event Center in Nashville, Tenn. December 1, 2017.
Belmont wins over Presbyterian 90-48 at Belmont University in the Curb Event Center in Nashville, Tenn. December 1, 2017.
Sam Simpkins/ Belmont University

NASHVILLE, TN - On a day where they were set to say goodbye to three seniors, the No. 23 Belmont Bruins made sure to give them the best gift of all: an undefeated conference record.

Behind a game-high 30 point effort from senior Kylee Smith, the Bruins (28-3, 18-0 Ohio Valley Conference) whomped the Tennessee State Tigers (6-21, 4-14 OVC) 84-42 in the last game of the regular season.

Besides Smith's jaw-dropping performance (she also had a game-high 10 rebounds and 5 assists), fellow departing seniors Sierra Jones (9 reb, 5 ast) and Sally McCabe (10 pts, 6 reb, 4 ast) put in work on Saturday as well, prompting praise from their head coach, Bart Brooks.

“I'm so proud of them and I am so blessed to have coached them," Brooks said. "I’m just so blessed that they are a part of this team."

Stepping onto the court Saturday afternoon at the Curb Event Center, the Bruins quickly came to the realization that they were going to have to step it up their defensive presence. Tennessee State came in hot after initially being down 8-2, trading baskets with Belmont.

Although Belmont was able to keep the lead in their favor for the majority of the first, they knew their 18-game winning streak would be in danger if they didn't start playing lockdown defense. The final score of the first period was 19-15 in favor of Belmont.

At the beginning of the second period, Belmont was able to widen the gap to nine points...that is until Kaliya Griffin whipped out and drained another triple for the Tigers.

Belmont’s Smith was the difference maker keeping the Bruins afloat. Smith, also known by her peers as “Basketball Barbie,” had already made 13 points and 6 rebounds for her team before reaching the half. Going into halftime, Belmont carried a 42-29 lead.

“There’s a reason for the last four years that I’ve played here that we have {only} lost two games on this court and its because of the fans. We really do have a home-court advantage,” Smith explained. “Just believe in yourself, you know. At the end of the day, I have a family at home and a family at Belmont that believes in me and I believe in everyone.”

The beginning of the second half was all about Belmont. With barely three minutes passing in the third quarter, the Bruins had already raised the score to a 19-point gap. The Bruin defense showed up in the third as well, holding Tennessee State to FOUR points.

Belmont brought the period to a close with a score of 61-38. If the Tigers wanted any chance in bringing home this victory, they would have to give all or nothing in the final quarter.

Halfway through the fourth, the Bruins were leading by 30 points. By the end, Smith had already locked down her fifth double-double of the season, and Belmont had clinched their second straight perfect OVC season and their 19th straight win.

Tennessee State only had one player score more than eight points (Tia Wooten - 13 pts, 11 reb) in the 42-point loss. With the win, Belmont clinched the no. 1 spot in the Ohio Valley Conference and will face the no. 8 seed on Wednesday.