MURFREESBORO, Tenn. – Gritty defense and determination helped the Belmont women's basketball team overcome an uncharacteristically cold shooting night and snap a decades-old losing streak against Middle Tennessee State on Monday.
Belmont beat MTSU 45-38 at the Murphy Center for the program's first win in the series since Feb. 11, 1975. The Blue Raiders didn't even recognize their women's basketball team as a Division I sport until the following season. They then reeled off 16 straight wins in the series between 1979 and 2000.
"They've been a really good basketball team for a really long time and I'm just proud of the steps our program has taken to become one of those type of teams," said Belmont senior Darby Maggard (Larwill, Ind.). "It's special; it's really special."
The Bruins (3-1) found their third straight victory in unusual fashion. A team that ranked in the top 10 in the nation in made 3-pointers entering the game, Belmont didn't make its first until the third quarter when Maddie Wright (Chattanooga, Tenn.) finally got a long shot to fall.
It would be the team's only make from three all game. Belmont managed just 17 points in the first half combined.
And still led.
The Bruins' defense was even more stingy in its limiting of MTSU. Despite the low-scoring output in the first half, the Bruins held a 17-16 advantage. The Blue Raiders had multiple scoreless droughts of six minutes or longer Monday, including a frigid stretch of 7:51 without a point in the first half.
"We're an offensive team and we kept telling ourselves that the shots would fall, but that did elevate our intensity on the defensive end," said Belmont senior Jenny Roy (Brentwood, Tenn.). "We used that energy because defense was where we were going to win this game. Battle it out and keep grinding."
Neither team shot better than 25 percent for the game, but Belmont turned a narrow second-half advantage into a 10-point lead with four minutes remaining on the strength of its free-throw shooting. Nearly half of the team's total points came at the line (22 of 45 points).
Belmont came into the game averaging six made free throws per game.
"I've learned how to work hard at Belmont and I've learned that you need to work hard to be successful ... It's that choice every day, in and out: to do your best." - @JennyRoy24 #whatisYOURwhy ���� pic.twitter.com/BbFf5TZaPN— Belmont WBasketball (@BelmontWBB) November 19, 2018
"We're a 3-point shooting team, but if we can figure out other ways to win, other ways to grind out a basketball game like that, that only makes us more lethal on the court," Maggard said. "It makes teams have to find other ways to guard us."
Maggard was 10-of-10 at the line and led all players with 12 total points. That leaves her four points shy of breaking the school record for career scoring in Belmont's NCAA Division I era with 1,537 career points.
She was one of three players in double figures scoring as Ellie Harmeyer (Kenosha, Wis.) and Wright chipped in 11 and 10 points, respectively. Harmeyer notched Belmont's first double-double of the season by adding a career-high 12 rebounds.
Up Next: Belmont continues its early season road slate by traveling to Highland Heights, Ky., to take on Northern Kentucky on Wednesday. The game is slated for 5 p.m. (CT).