EVANSVILLE, Ind. – No. 1 Belmont women's basketball scored six points in the final seconds of regulation in the OVC tournament championship game to catch up with No. 2 UT Martin Saturday afternoon inside the Ford Center. The Bruins would go on to edge the Skyhawks, 63-56, in overtime to claim their third consecutive OVC Championship.
Down by six with 14 seconds left in regulation never once deterred the Bruins (31-3) from closing the door on their championship hopes. Instead, the squad nailed a pair of triples courtesy of junior guards Maura Muensterman (Evansville, Ind.) and Darby Maggard (Larwill, Ind.) to force their first overtime period of the season. Belmont rode the momentum into the extra frame, outscoring the Skyhawks 9-2. The victory extended the team's winning streak to a program-best 22 games, while recording their 46th-consecutive conference win.
Maggard's clutch shooting earned the Larwill, Ind. native All-Tournament MVP honors. She was joined by Sally McCabe (Mt. Juliet, Tenn.) and Kylee Smith (Alpharetta, Ga.) on the All-Tournament team. Collectively, the trio poured in 49 points for the Bruins, including scoring all nine of the team's overtime points. McCabe led the squad with 19 points and 10 rebounds, registering a double-double in all three of Belmont's games over the week. Both Smith and Maggard contributed 15 points.
In addition to the threesome, junior guard Jenny Roy (Brentwood, Tenn.) played a vital role in the Bruins victory pulling down a career-best 14 rebounds while dishing nine assists and rejecting three shots. McCabe also added four blocks to her line, tying the all-time OVC record for career blocks with 287 in her time as a Bruin.
UT Martin (19-14) was led by Janekia Mason's 23 points and 13 rebounds along with Emanye Robertson's 12 points. The squad went 10-for-12 from the charity stripe and shot 35 percent from the field. The Skyhawks led by as many as nine throughout the course of the game.
Stifling defense and hot shooting helped the Bruins get out to a 10-2 lead in the opening minutes of the game. The squad held UT Martin without a field goal for the first five minutes of play as Belmont made key stops, collecting a pair of blocks and forcing two turnovers. The Skyhawks began to mount a comeback after the media timeout, going on an 8-0 run to tie it up with 1:44 left in the quarter. Muensterman drained a three-pointer in the final seconds of the first frame to put BU ahead, 16-13, at the break.
UTM scored the first bucket of the second quarter before Roy converted on a clutch three-point play after collecting the offensive board to maintain Belmont's lead. The Skyhawks continued to heat up throughout the stanza as they took their first lead, 25-24, with 2:19 remaining in the half. In the meantime, BU continued to struggle to make shots as they endured a three-minute drought without a field goal. The scoreless span helped UT Martin tally six unanswered to go up, 28-24, as the final minute approached. The Bruins managed to record three points down the stretch to only trail by one, 28-27, at halftime.
AND-1! Roy collects the offensive board, lays it in AND converts the three point play after forcing the foul.— Belmont WBasketball (@BelmontWBB) March 3, 2018
BU leads, 19-15, with 7:34 left in the half.
A pair of clutch offensive rebounds from senior guard Sierra Jones (Huntsville, Ala.) to start the third period weren't enough for the Bruins to get their offense going as the squad started 0-for-8 from the field. While BU's offense was cold the Skyhawks couldn't separate themselves as they also only triggered a bucket of their own in the first five minutes of the period. UT Martin continued to separate themselves in the third after going on an 8-0 with 1:25 left to take their largest lead of the game, 38-29. Smith powered the Bruins in the final 1:11 of the third, mounting a 7-0 run on her own for Belmont to make it a two-point game, 38-36, in favor of UTM.
Both squads traded buckets in the early goings of the fourth with the Skyhawks continuing to maintain the lead throughout the stretch, ahead, 43-42, at the media timeout with 4:32 remaining. UT Martin held a six-point advantage with 14 seconds left in regulation when Roy forced a jump ball that gave BU possession of the ball leading to Muensterman's life-giving triple to bring the bruins with in three. After 10 seconds expired, Maggard drilled the game-tying three that knotted it up, 54-54. Muensterman, the hometown hero, went on to guard the inbound play with four seconds left that helped force another Skyhawk turnover that would ultimately push the game into overtime.
The momentum favored the Bruins from then on as Belmont outscored UT Martin, 9-2, in the five-minute extra frame. Maggard once again had the last say as she sunk another shot from beyond the arc with 39 seconds left, the dagger that would seal Belmont's third-consecutive OVC tournament title.
- The win marks Belmont's ninth consecutive OVC Tournament win and its third straight OVC Tournament title.
- Belmont extends its winning streak to 22 games, the longest streak in program history. It's also the fifth longest streak in the nation.
- The Bruins have won their last 46 consecutive OVC games, boasting the second longest streak in the nation behind No. 1 UConn.
- This marks the first season that BU as won 31 games in its Division I era, and its first since the 1993-94 campaign. It's just the third 31-win season in program history.
- No. 22 Belmont's national ranking in the AP poll is its first-ever appearance in the Top-25 and the first of any BU program, the Bruins have been ranked nationally for the past three weeks.