NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Arkansas State threw its best punches in the third quarter, but the Belmont women's basketball team hit back harder.
Despite its lead slipping to just three points in the second half, the Bruins rallied and ran away with a 74-55 victory over the Red Wolves at the Curb Event Center. The advantage swelled to as many as 23 points in the game's waning minutes.
The win is Belmont's third in a row and boosts the Bruins to 7-3 with only one game remaining on their non-conference slate. Friday's victory was another example of refusing to fold when met eye-to-eye with adversity.
Belmont had held the edge through most of the game by the time it found itself ahead by a dozen, 45-33, midway through the third quarter. But the Red Wolves (5-5) didn't go away. The visitors made six straight shots to whittle the deficit to a single possession, 47-44.
"We did a good job of taking their hits," began senior guard Darby Maggard (Larwill, Ind.). "We took that run and we said, ya know what, we're going to flip this around and make it our run."
Belmont doubled down on its efforts in the paint thereafter. The Bruins out-rebounded Arkansas State by a 2-to-1 margin down the stretch, cleaning up the glass in the fourth quarter especially. Defensive rebounding – and some timely forced turnovers – helped Belmont answer the ASU run with a 12-1 stretch of its own.
"It's just a testament to our toughness," said Belmont senior guard Jenny Roy (Brentwood, Tenn.). "We gave up no offensive rebounds in the fourth quarter and that's really when the lead shifted. That rebounding was something we knew we had to focus on. That really expanded our lead."
The Bruins poured it on in a 22-point fourth quarter. Maggard and junior Ellie Harmeyer (Kenosha, Wis.) each hit a pair of 3-pointers. Maggard, Harmeyer and Roy all scored 17 points while packing the stat sheet elsewhere as well.
Maggard added a season-high seven assists to her point total. Harmeyer set a career high with five steals and grabbed 10 rebounds for her second double-double of the season. Roy nabbed seven boards to go with four assists and three blocks.
The Bruins blocked seven shots in all, proof of a disciplined defensive approach against an Arkansas State team that led the nation in free throw attempts per game coming into Friday's action.
ASU was 12-of-15 from the line, less than half its usually free-throw output. The Red Wolves averaged 31.8 attempts a game before their run-in with the Bruins.
"Coach Bart (Brooks) really hones in us staying clean on defense," Maggard said. "If we don't bail them out with a bad foul when they drive in there like that, they usually have to take a crazy shot. We stayed clean and let them take a crazy shot."
Up Next: Belmont travels to nationally ranked [9/9] Tennessee to close out its non-conference schedule a week from Sunday. That game on Dec. 30 will tip off at 1 p.m. (CT).