EVANSVILLE, Ind. – Belmont's quest for a fourth consecutive Ohio Valley Conference Tournament women's basketball championship begins Wednesday with a familiar task. The top-seeded Bruins will entertain No. 8 seed Southeast Missouri at the Ford Center in a first-round pairing rematch.
Belmont and SEMO tip off at 1 p.m. in Evansville in the first game of the tournament. The teams also met to close the regular season this past Saturday, a 92-86 Bruin victory.
All women's games at the OVC Tournament will be available to stream online with ESPN+ and the Watch ESPN app, including Belmont's first-rounder. An audio stream Wednesday can also be accessed through the Bruin Sports Network.
Belmont is 2-0 against SEMO this season and has won five in a row overall in the series.
"SEMO's a good team and they played really great on Saturday. We need to look at the things we might not have done as well and improve on those at practice this week," said Belmont junior Maura Muensterman, an Evansville native. "It's hard to beat a team three times, especially in that short of a time. It's going to have to take a lot of focus on our end, but I think we have that."
The Bruins (23-6) have won the past three OVC Tournaments and appeared in three straight NCAA Tournaments for the first time in program history. No team in the conference has a better balance of scoring among its starters with all five Belmont players averaging better than 9.0 points per game. Of course that group is led by the big numbers of senior Darby Maggard (Larwill, Ind.) and junior Ellie Harmeyer (Kenosha, Wis.), who score an average of 17.4 and 16.9 points, respectively.
Overall Belmont ranks near the top of the field in both offense and defense, averaging 76.8 points while limiting defenses to just 60.0. The Bruins are the top shooting team in the league too, hitting on 45.6 percent of their field goals and 35.9 percent of their 3-pointers.
In conference play, Belmont is shooting nearly 50 percent with an average of 81.2 points per game.
"I think we've taken huge strides in every aspect," Muensterman explained. "I've noticed differences in our defense and our energy, the flow of our offense. We play a really pretty style of basketball and over the course of the season it's gotten better and better."
Southeast Missouri (13-16) qualified for the OVC Tournament despite dropping three of its final four games of the regular season, including last week's encounter with the Bruins. That despite the efforts of sophomore Tesia Thompson, the league's leading scorer at 18.5 points per game.
The winner of Wednesday's first round will play again Friday in the OVC Tournament semifinals. Either fourth-seed Tennessee Tech (20-9) or No. 5 Austin Peay (15-14) will be the opponent there.