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The Daily Eastern News

1st place Belmont traveling to Eastern

JJ Bullock, Assistant Sports Editor

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Prior to the season beginning, no coach in the OVC was shy in saying that Belmont’s women’s basketball team was the team to beat and 18 games into the season, Belmont has lived up to that expectation.

The Bruins have the OVC’s best overall record at 15-3 and conference record of 5-0.

Outside of having the best record in the conference, Belmont has been a juggernaut on the offensive side of the ball.

The Bruins lead the OVC in points per game averaging 79.2 per contest, field goal percentage (47.2), three-point percentage (36.2) and scoring margin (+17.9).

What makes Belmont so efficient on offense is the team’s strength at every position on the floor; however, it all begins with the play of its guards for Belmont.

The preseason favorite to win conference player of the year, Darby Maggard, has not failed expectations either this season. The junior guard is averaging 17 points per game and leads the conference with 92 assists for Belmont.

Morehead State head coach Greg Todd said before the season that while he felt Maggard was one of the best guards, if not the best, he was not sure if Eastern guard Grace Lennox was just as good, if not better. However, Lennox is out for the season with a knee-injury meaning Maggard will be the best guard on the court Saturday.

The teams scoring leader, senior guard Kylee Smith, who averages 19.6 points per game and 7.5 rebounds has not played a game with the team since its 111-74 win over Vanderbilt on Dec. 21.

In the absence of Smith, junior guard Maura Muensterman has been starting. She has averaged 9.9 points per game.

The guards from Belmont will be met with an Eastern guard trio that has been playing well of late.

Freshman guard Taylor Steele, who has been playing in the place of Lennox, is averaging 13.4 points per game and has been big in the Panthers’ effort since Lennox went down.

“Obviously it’s huge to have a freshman (do what Steele has done),” Eastern coach Matt Bollant said. “We have been telling everyone to step up and do more now and she certainly has done that and has been consistent for us.”

Where Belmont really separates itself from the crowd is its ability to couple its superior guard play with a strong post presence in senior center Sally McCabe and junior forward Jenny Roy.

McCabe was selected alongside Maggard to win player of the year in the preseason poll, and she too is making a strong case make that prediction come true. She is averaging 15.2 points per game, 7.6 rebounds and an OVC-best 2.6 blocks.

Roy has grabbed an OVC fourth-best 8.2 rebounds per game to go with 8.2 points per game.

The game between Belmont and Eastern will begin Saturday at 1 p.m. at Lantz Arena.

JJ Bullock can be reached at 581-2812 or jpbullock@eiu.edu

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The student news site of Eastern Illinois University in Charleston, Illinois.
1st place Belmont traveling to Eastern