By Nate Perry, TTU Sports Information
COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – It's been almost exactly four years since an Ohio Valley Conference team had an opportunity to record a regular-season sweep of Belmont women's basketball, but on Saturday night in the Hooper Eblen Center, Tennessee Tech will get its chance when the Golden Eagles and Bruins tip it up at 5:30 p.m.
CLASS OF THE CONFERENCE
With 12-1 and 10-3 records, respectively, in OVC play, Saturday's matchup between Belmont and Tennessee Tech will feature the league's first and second place teams.
The combined 22-4 ledger (.846) is the best the clubs have ever had heading into a league-season rematch.
The teams' first acquaintance this year became one of the greatest games in Tennessee Tech program history, as the Golden Eagles snapped the Bruins' 47-game winning streak over OVC opponents on Jan. 5 with a 77-72 victory in Nashville.
Tech received a career performance from sophomore Abby Buckner, who poured in 18 points with five 3-pointers while playing 38 minutes. Jordan Brock shared the team-high with Buckner with 18 tallies of her own and a 4-of-4 mark from 3-point range, and a tenacious Kesha Brady ripped down 10 rebounds to go with her 11 points for her first career double-double.
COLEMAN COMING ON
After struggling with inconsistency in the early part of the season, Mackenzie Coleman has now scored in double figures in each of her past four games, and has averaged 16.8 points per contest over that span.
The Edmonton, Ky. native shot 56.8 percent from the floor over those four tilts (25-of-44), was 4-of-8 from 3-point range, and 13-of-14 from the free throw line (92.9 percent).
STRONG FROM THE STRIPE
With a 17-of-21 mark (80.9 percent) from the free throw line against Jacksonville State, Tech recorded its 11th game this season with a team mark of 80 percent or better. At 77.3 percent for the year, the Golden Eagles rank eighth in NCAA Division I.
CLEARING THE GLASS
TTU has now won the rebounding battle in each of its past three games, as well as eight of its last 12. The Golden Eagles own a 13-1 record when they outrebound their opponent.
Belmont has played only six seasons in the Ohio Valley Conference, but has produced an outstanding 90-21 record in that time. It has won 10 games or more in every conference season.
The last three years have been particularly impressive, as the Bruins have won back-to-back-to-back conference titles, complete with perfect 16-0 and 18-0 league campaigns in 2017 and 2018, respectively.
Second-year coach Bart Brooks has guided the Bruins to a 19-5 record in 2018-19 and a 12-1 conference mark that puts them atop the league standings.
Since its lone league loss to Tech, BU has won 11 conference games in a row, and is now 58-1 over its last 59 OVC dates.
Junior forward Ellie Harmeyer and senior guard Darby Maggard pace the Bruin attack with 16.6 points and 15.8 points per game, respectively.
Harmeyer and Maggard each rank in the top six in the OVC in scoring average. Harmeyer is also third in rebounding with a team-leading 9.0 per contest, eighth in free throw percentage (.785), and 11th in field goal percentage (.477).
Maggard is the league's best in assist-to-turnover ratio (2.9), and is third in assists per game at 4.4. She also tops the conference in made 3-pointers with 3.2 per game, and is fourth in minutes played with 33.4 per tilt.
Forwards Maura Muensterman and Maddie Wright, and guard Jenny Roy all average more than nine points per game, which completes a starting lineup that has scored 81.5 percent of the team's points so far this year.
Roy has been a terrific all-around player for the Bruins, ranking first in assists per game (5.3), second in assist-to-turnover ratio (2.5), sixth in rebounds per game (8.1), 11th in 3-point field goal percentage (.362) and 12th in steals (1.5).
The Tech-Belmont series goes back much further than the teams' OVC ties, as the Bruins beat the Golden Eagles twice in TTU's first season, 1970-71, and two more times the following year. The series currently stands at 27-19, with Tech leading.
Each team went 4-4 over the next eight matchups, before TTU took ownership of the series in the second meeting of the 1975-76 season.
Tech ripped off 17 wins in a row – a run that lasted more than 30 years – before ending with a 68-62 BU victory on Nov. 20, 2008.
Tech won five straight following that loss, including the first three OVC contests in 2013. Belmont, however, had won 10 in a row prior to the first matchup this season.
BU's streak nearly ended in Cookeville in 2016. After two Samaria Howard 3-pointers sent the game to both its first and second overtimes, Maggard broke Golden Eagle hearts with the game-winning jump shot with eight seconds left in the second OT to send the Bruins home victors, 80-79.
Photo by Thomas Corhern