EVANSVILLE, IN (WFIE) - No. 1 Belmont women's basketball fought down to the final seconds in the OVC tournament semifinals and pulled out a gritty victory over No. 4 Jacksonville State. The Bruins extended their winning streak to 21-straight games with a 63-53 win over the Gamecocks, also marking their 45thconsecutive league win.
For just the third time in program history, BU has now won 30 games in a single season. The squad's 30-3 overall record is its best in the University's Division I era and the best in nearly 25 years. The historic win also puts Belmont in the OVC tournament championship game for the third consecutive season.
Junior guard Darby Maggard (Larwill, Ind.) carried the Bruins with 20 points, including four made three-pointers. She was joined by senior guard Kylee Smith (Alpharetta, Ga.) who tallied 19 points and eight rebounds as well as Sally McCabe (Mt. Juliet, Tenn.) who recorded her second consecutive double-double with 11 points and 12 boards.
Jacksonville State (19-12) was led by a pair of 10-point performances from Kiana Johnson and Tasha Magruder. Collectively, the Gamecocks shot 33 percent from the field and compiled 34 rebounds.
The Bruins got out to a slow start as the Gamecocks netted the first six points of the game before a pullup jumper from Maggard got BU on the board. However, JSU continued to extend their lead going up by seven, 12-5, at the 3:55 mark. An and-1 from McCabe fired the Bruins up as they continued to chip away at their deficit. Smith tried to knot it up with four seconds on the clock, but a missed free throw that gave the advantage to Jacksonville State, 15-14, after a period.
JSU once again claimed the first buckets of the second stanza with a triple two minutes it. They scored five unanswered before Belmont went on a 5-0 run of its own to tie the game up, 20-20, with 3:56 remaining in the half. From there BU went on a 10-1 scoring spree to claim their first lead, 22-21, of the afternoon. Senior guard Sierra Jones (Huntsville, Ala.) had the magic touch after collecting the offensive rebound and laying it in. Maggard used the momentum to drain her first three-pointer of the half as Belmont went up, 25-21, but a last second layup from JSU left it tied, 25-25, at halftime.