Belmont wins women’s OVC title

Mark Shanahan, Women's Basketball Reporter

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The Belmont women’s basketball team punched its ticket to the NCAA Tournament for the second year in a row with a 94-64 victory over Eastern Kentucky on Saturday afternoon.

The NCAA Tournament matchups have not been announced.

The Bruins capped off an undefeated season in conference play and pushed its win streak to 21 games, which is the longest in school history and second-longest active streak in Division I behind the University of Connecticut.

The UConn women’s basketball team is on a 106-game win streak. The team’s last loss came to Stanford in the fall of 2015. It has two National Championships during this reocrd-breaking win strek.

Belmont finished with an overall record of 27-5 and is 35-1 in its last 36 OVC games with 25 consecutive wins. The 27 victories are the most in a single season for the Bruins and they are just the eighth team in league history to win back-to-back conference championships. They are just the fourth team in OVC history to go undefeated in conference play and win the OVC championship in the same season.

Eastern Kentucky had the Bruins tied at 22 in the first half, but a 16-6 run for Belmont gave them a 38-28 lead at the half. Belmont would go on to shoot 64 percent in the second half putting up 56 points after the half. Belmont was led by tournament MVP Kylee Smith who scored a career-high 30 points.

Darby Maggard had 22 points and eight assists, while Sally McCabe added 11 points, 11 rebounds and four blocked shots for her 18th career double double. Maggard and McCabe each earned All-Tournament Team honors. Jankia Mason from Tennessee-Martin and Jalen O’Bannon of Eastern Kentucky were the other players named to the All-Tournament team.

Mariah Massengill and Shavontae Naylor each scored 16 poins for Eastern Kentucky in the championship game. Belmont had a season high in rebounds with 53 as they outrebounded the Colonels 53-33.

It was an improbable run for Eastern Kentucky who entered the tournament as the seventh seed and an overall record of 12-20. The Colonels started off by stunning the second seed Morehead State 73-67 in the first round. They earned another close victory in the semifinals with a win over the third seed Southern Illinois Edwardsville 61-58.

Belmont was the team to beat coming into the tournament and nobody came close to upsetting its bid for another NCAA Tournament. In the first round they took on the eighth seed Southeast Missouri with a convincing 74-59 victory. They had the fourth seed Tennessee-Martin in the semifinals and beat them handily 83-62.

Belmont will find out its seeding and opponent for the first round of the NCAA Tournament on Monday, March 13.

Mark Shanahan can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]