CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo. – Darby Maggard set yet another school record, Jenny Roy came within a breath of yet another triple-double, but most importantly the Belmont women's basketball team got back on track to close out the regular season with a victory Saturday.
The Bruins fended off a worthy challenge from Southeast Missouri and left the Redhawks' Show Me Center with a 92-86 win in the regular-season finale. That got Belmont back in the win column headed into the Ohio Valley Conference Tournament, which begins Wednesday in Evansville, Ind.
Belmont (23-6, 16-2 OVC) will be the top seed in the tournament field and draws a rematch with No. 8 SEMO (13-16, 8-10 OVC) for a second meeting in just five days. The teams tip off the tourney at 1 p.m. from Evansville's Ford Center ready for another 40 minutes of exciting basketball to match Saturday's level of play.
SEMO brought tremendous energy on its senior night, but the Bruins had an answer for each big Southeast Missouri shot. Despite seeing a 17-point second-half lead shrink to just two with a minute left in the game, the poised Bruins closed out the victory with steady hands and free throws.
"Their last home game obviously, they were going to come out ready to play," said Maggard (Larwill, Ind.). "I felt we did a really good job managing down the stretch. We got stops when we needed to and attacked the rim, took advantage of the bonus to get to the free-throw line at the end of the game."
Maggard was instrumental in fending off SEMO's late surge, scoring 19 of her 26 points in the second half. That included four third-quarter 3-pointers, which pushed her past Belmont's all-time program record for career threes. Maggard's 418 made 3-pointers overtake the 415 of Kelli Davis that dated back to Belmont's NAIA days.
Also crucial in the victory was another all-around gem from Roy (Brentwood, Tenn.). She came an assist shy of her second triple-double this season with 15 points, 12 rebounds and nine assists. She scored 11 points with five assists in the second half alone.
On the brink of her own career milestone, Roy needs just a single point to reach 1,000.
Junior forward Ellie Harmeyer (Kenosha, Wis.) added 20 more points, including a pair of free throws that gave Belmont some breathing room, 90-86, with less than a minute to play. She was 8-of-9 at the line, and Maggard was 9-of-10 as the Bruins made 29 freebies, their most in a game this season.
Belmont, which has won at least 23 games in four straight seasons, can turn its attention to the OVC Tournament now and a third meeting with SEMO this season. The Bruins won 91-57 when the teams met in Nashville in January.
"I think every game has a life of its own," Roy said. "We can take the film from this game, learn and improve on it. We've got an opportunity for sure ahead of us."
It's the second time in the past four years Belmont will play an opponent back to back. The Bruins beat Tennessee State to close the 2015-16 regular season and then again in the OVC Tournament first round. The Bruins went on to win that tournament for the first of its three consecutive OVC titles and NCAA Tournament appearances.
"We'll have the younger kids ready to go," Maggard said. "It's tournament time. March Madness is upon us."