NASHVILLE, Tenn. – It's been more than two years since the Belmont women's basketball team has seen a loss in its Ohio Valley Conference ledger, but Tennessee Tech did the honors of ending the Bruins' 47-game stretch of league dominance on Saturday, downing the Bruins 77-72 in BU's Curb Event Center.
It marks the first time Tech has beaten Belmont in 10 tries, and the program's first win at Curb Event Center since Feb. 2, 2013.
"I'm just so happy for our players," said coach Kim Rosamond. "It's huge for our team, but it's also big for our program as we try to get back to an elite level."
It's also Tech's 10th win of the year, which matches the high-water mark in the Rosamond era (10 wins in 2016-17), and makes TTU the second-fastest OVC team to reach double-digit wins this season (Morehead State).
While Tech's triumph was – and had to be – the epitome of a complete team victory, the scoring tandem of Abby Buckner and Jordan Brock generated one of the top storylines.
Both sophomores poured in 18 points, and combined for nine of TTU's 10 3-pointers in the contest. Tech's 10 connections from deep came on 23 attempts (40.6 percent), giving them back-to-back outings with a clip of 40 percent or better.
For Buckner, the 18 points and five made threes were both career highs.
The Murfreesboro native, frequently called a team leader by Rosamond, sparked the offense in the first quarter with a pair of trifectas, added another in the second, and another in the third.
Her final trey may have been the most important, as it pushed TTU's lead back to nine points midway through the fourth quarter, and answered a Belmont run that had cut the deficit to six.
She also matched a career-high with 38 minutes played, and ripped down four rebounds.
"Abby is our glue," quipped Rosamond. "I thought her confidence was contagious for all of us today. It was really vital that we got off to a good start, and she came out of the blocks playing extremely well. She hit some shots early, and then it was like everybody kind of fed off of her energy."
"We talked about confidence and execution all week, and I came in knowing that I needed to step up for my teammates," said Buckner. "We all needed to step up and make shots when we had to."
"Our passers were great too," she said. "Akia set me up most of the time and they were great passes that allowed me to go straight up with (the shot)."
Brock, known for her long-range archery, turned in a diverse offensive game that included a perfect 4-of-4 mark from distance, as well as an ability to create and make shots off the dribble.
Her first 3-pointer ended Tech's first half on a high note, as she beat the buzzer to give TTU a double-digit lead at the break, 39-27, and a whole lot of momentum heading into the second 20 minutes.
The collective performance of Tech's bench players made a crucial impact on the game as well, led by 11 points and 10 rebounds from Kesha Brady, her first career double-double.
"For Kesha to come in off the bench and bring what she brings – I don't think there's anybody else in the league that does that," Rosamond said. "Her rebounding and her effort on both ends of the floor was tremendous."
Mackenzie Coleman played a large supporting role as well, contributing eight points and eight rebounds.
"I could go right down the line," said Rosamond of her reserves. "We had so many players step up and make plays in different ways. Today was a total team win."
Together, Brady and Coleman combined for 18 of TTU's 45 rebounds in the contest, and Kentoria Alexander and Anacia Wilkinson each had six, as Tech won the battle on the glass, 45-40. In doing so, the Golden Eagles moved to a perfect 7-0 when they outrebound their opponent.
As she's done all season, Alexander dabbled in several statistical categories, adding nine points, three assists and one steal to her final line.
Akia Harris joined Alexander in doing a little bit of everything, scoring seven points and doling out a team-high six assists.
Wilkinson finished with four points, along with one violent block on Belmont's Darby Maggard in the fourth quarter. Maggard, the Preseason OVC Player of the Year.
A recent Achilles' heel for the Golden Eagles has been their high turnover totals, but on Saturday, it wasn't a problem. Tech never panicked, even when the game tightened down the stretch, and registered a season-low nine turnovers as a result.
"I thought (the lack of turnovers) was crucial because (Belmont) picked up the pressure in the fourth quarter and we handled it," Rosamond said. "Not only did we handle it, we attacked their pressure with pressure and scored a couple times that way, which I thought was great."
"I can't stress enough what a total team win this was from players and coaches alike. Everyone did their job and did it at an elite level today. Coach (Melanie) Walls deserves a tremendous amount of credit on the excellent job she did on the scout, and our kids deserve a tremendous amount of credit for taking the game plan and making it work."
While the victory was exhilarating, and moves the Golden Eagles' OVC record to 2-0 for the first time since 2012-13, Rosamond provided an element of perspective, noting that the undefeated start was just that – a start.
"While this is a huge win, it's also just another step in our process," she said. "We're undefeated, but there is a long way to go in this OVC season."
Tech will host a pair of OVC opponents next week, as SIUE comes to Cookeville for a meeting on Thursday evening, followed by a date with Eastern Illinois on Saturday.