Belmont women advance to OVC semifinals with 74-59 win over Southeast Missouri

NASHVILLE, Tenn.- Picking off right where it left off last season at Municipal Auditorium, the No. 1 seed Belmont University women's basketball team (25-5) posted a 74-59 victory over No. 8 Southeast Missouri (13-17) Wednesday afternoon in the opening round of the 2017 OVC Tournament.

Belmont extended the nation's second-longest active winning streak to 19 games and improves to 33-1 in its last 34 OVC games. BU has won 23-straight conference games including last season's run through the OVC Tournament.

Five Bruins finished in double figures, paced by senior Lauren Thompson (Franklin, Tenn.) who tallied 16 points. Jenny Roy (Brentwood, Tenn.) finished with 12 points and tied a career best with 14 rebounds, compiling her fifth double of the season. Kylee Smith (Alpharetta, Ga.) scored 14 including 12 in the first half. Sally McCabe (Mt. Juliet, Tenn.) had 10 points, six rebounds and four blocks while Sierra Jones (Huntsville, Ala.) scored a big 11 points off the Bruin bench.

With 25 wins this season, the Bruins have tied the 2006-07 team (25-7) for the most wins in Belmont's Division I history.

"We give credit to SEMO they are a tough team. They can really score the ball. As you saw, Bri Mitchell had 32 points. She is a very prolific scorer and then they have a lot of shooters around her. We were really concerned with their shooters. We really tried to take away the three point line. We were very concerned with the offensive rebound. They had 16. We didn't do a terrific job there but they only had 11 second chance points. Good job to our team on digging in when they got offensive rebounds and getting stops. I was happy with our team defense. Offensively, I was really excited and proud of Sierra Jones she came in and gave us a big lift off the bench. She gave us some instant offense. Jenny Roy had 14 rebounds with nine of them offensive. That is kind of what Jenny does. We just had players step up at the right time and make shots. At this point it is about surviving and advancing. It is about playing through mistakes. It is about the next play, and I think our kids did that," said Head Coach Cameron Newbauer after the win.

Belmont will face either UT Martin or Austin Peay Friday, March 3 at Noon CT in the OVC semifinal round.

Belmont finished just 5-of-20 (25.0%) from three-point range and 25-of-61 (41.0%) from the field overall but dominated the rebounding battle, 51-37. The Bruins held SEMO, who entered the game averaging the second most points in the OVC at 74.4 per game, to just 59. The Redhawks came into the game shooting 34.9% from three-point range but Belmont's defense limited them to just 15.8% shooting (3-of-19).

"What we were saying in the locker room is a win is a win. It was not pretty but we did enough to get the job done today. They are a really good team. They have a lot of offensive threats. We knew we had a challenge on our hands. We were just taking it one possession at a time, doing the little things right. It paid off for us today," said Roy.

Roy also tied her career high with six assists, while notching a pair of steals and a block. Smith tied her season best with nine rebounds.

All-OVC guard Bri Mitchell scored a career-high 32 points on 12-of-29 shooting from the floor for SEMO and fellow senior Olivia Hackmann returned from injury after missing the previous 11 games.

The Bruins faced an 8-7 deficit at the first quarter media timeout and trailed 7-2 early as the Redhawks came out determined from the jump. After the media timeout, Belmont scored the next six points to take a 13-8 lead, forcing the Redhawks to call a timeout of their own at the 3:21 mark. Belmont would take a 21-12 lead into the second quarter as it closed the period on a 14-4 run following the media timeout. Smith led all scorers with nine first quarter points and helped stabilize Belmont early, scoring the team's first two baskets after SEMO jumped out to a 4-0 lead.

Belmont led 43-30 heading into the intermission outscoring the Redhawks 22-18 in the second quarter. SEMO opened the second with a 6-0 scoring spurt as Mitchell nailed a three-pointer on back-to-back possessions to trim the Belmont lead to just 21-18 with under eight minutes remaining in the frame. BU adjusted and found its footing offensively, carrying a double digit lead into the break. Roy had nine points after the first 20 minutes and helped build Belmont's lead in the second quarter.

The Bruins shot just 3-of-10 from the arc in the first half. Maggard and McCabe combined to score only four points but Jones provided a spark off the bench, registering eight points. Smith paced Belmont with 12 at the break while Mitchell was the catalyst for SEMO with 17 first half points. Belmont held a significant advantage in terms of points in the paint, 22-4, and had 11 second chance points compared to SEMO's two.

Belmont outscored SEMO, 19-15 in the third and led by as many as 18 in the frame. Thompson scored six points in the third as the Bruins grew their lead.

SEMO scored the fourth quarter's first six points to shrink the gap to just 11 at 62-51 with eight minutes left, but Belmont struck right back as it scored five-straight points to extend the lead back to 16 after Darby Maggard (Larwill, Ind.) connected on a transition three which forced the Redhawks to call timeout. SEMO outcored Belmont 14-12 in the fourth but the Bruins held on for the gritty victory.

Jones came through in a big way for Belmont, scoring her most points since Dec. 31, 2015 at Austin Peay.

The Bruins were +14 on the boards and +16 in points in the paint and had 17 assists on 25 made field goals.

Belmont led for all but five minutes in the contest.

The Bruins return to the floor Friday, March 3 when they compete in the OVC Tournament Semifinal.

Courtesy: Belmont Athletics

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