Preview: Women’s basketball looks to win fourth straight OVC Championship title
The Belmont women’s basketball team heads to Evansville to try and win its fourth straight Ohio Valley Conference Tournament after winning its third straight regular season championship.
The Bruins will play Southeast Missouri in the first round on Wednesday at 1 p.m.. Belmont beat SEMO twice in the regular season, including a 92-86 victory in the final game of the season on Saturday.
Belmont finished the regular season with a record of 23-6 overall and a conference record of 16-2, averaging 76.8 points per game.
The Bruins’ OVC campaign was successful but didn’t come without some road bumps.
Sadly for Belmont, its 47 game conference win streak ended with a 77-72 loss to Tennessee Tech in January.
After that loss, the Bruins bounced back and went on to win 14 straight games until a loss at UT Martin on Thursday. In the 2018 OVC Tournament Final, the Bruins took UT Martin into overtime, eventually beating them 63-56.
Senior and OVC Player of the Year Darby Maggard doesn’t think Thursday’s loss to UT Martin will affect the team’s performance in the tournament.
“I think we did a good job bringing our energy up and really focusing on what we can control, which is our effort and our defensive discipline on that end of the floor,” said Maggard. “We know if we can continue to use those things to our advantage, we’re going to be fine.”
Along with Maggard, junior Ellie Harmeyer had an excellent year. Harmeyer is averaging 16.9 points per game and was named to the All-OVC First Team for the first time on Tuesday.
Harmeyer is confident in how the team is playing and feels the past few weeks of practice will give them the edge in the tournament.
“I think right now our team is playing our best basketball, and I’m really excited to see all that we’ll accomplish,” said Harmeyer.
Along with Harmeyer, there are a few other players who have stepped up in big situations for the Bruins and will be very important if the team wants to go on a run in the tournament.
Junior Maddie Wright has been the height and strength Belmont desperately needed after the loss of Sally McCabe. Wright is averaging 9.4 points per game and 6.1 assists.
Freshmen Jamilyn Kinney, Maddie Cook and Conley Chinn have become huge impact players off the bench.
Head coach Bart Brooks knows his job is to make sure the young players feel confident and comfortable.
Brooks also wants the whole team to be free of pressure going into the tournament and believes pressure is only in the mind.
“Pressure is like dragons and unicorns, it doesn’t exist. It’s something you create in your own mind,” said Brooks. “They know how to play basketball, that’s all they have to do.”
Senior Jenny Roy has plenty of experience and knows how important it is to use it to help guide the younger athletes.
“I’m continuing to gain that experience, and that’s something I’m hoping I can relay onto some of the younger guys. Because, hey, I’ve been there. I’ve been in your shoes, I know what it takes and I know what you’re feeling,” said Roy. “I’m just excited to go out there and give it another shot.”
The Bruins face SEMO Wednesday at 1 p.m. on ESPN+. If they win, they will face the winner of the Austin Peay vs. Tennessee Tech game in the semifinal on Friday.