CHARLESTON — The Belmont women's basketball team has a new coach this season, Bart Brooks, after Cameron Newbauer took the head job at the University of Florida. The winning hasn't stopped under Brooks, though.
The Bruins came into the season with a 25-game Ohio Valley Conference winning streak. All Belmont has done this season is go 15-3 overall and extend its OVC winning streak to 30 games after defeating all five conference opponents so far this season.
Belmont brings its OVC winning streak to Lantz Arena on Saturday for a 1 p.m. game against Eastern Illinois.
"I think they are the class of our league right now and probably the best team we will face all year," EIU coach Matt Bollant said. "Anytime you have a new coach, you don't know how the transition will be, but they've adapted well and it's working for them. We are excited for another home game, and we are 1-0 at home in conference play, so we will see if we can build on that."
Belmont leads the OVC with 79.2 points per game and is shooting 47.2 percent on the season, including 36.2 percent from behind the arc. There have only been three games this season when Belmont has been held under 70 points. One of the times was against Stanford, which was ranked No. 14 at the time. The other two times, Belmont beat Southeast Missouri State and UT Martin.
Bollant said he's not entirely sure how anyone can fully slow down Belmont's offense.
"I think the one thing you do is try and take away their strengths. They shoot well, so you have to match up with their shooters," Bollant said. "Try not to give up any easy baskets and make things as difficult so they don't get their confidence going."
It's almost a pick-your-poison with Belmont, too. Kylee Smith leads Belmont with 19.6 points per game to go along with 7.5 rebounds per game, and she has 61 assists on the season. She's made 37 3-pointers this year. Darby Maggard is averaging 17.0 points and leads the team with 92 assists and 59 3-pointers. Sally McCabe is averaging 15.2 points and 7.6 rebounds per game.
"I think it starts with Darby, the point guard, because the ball is in her hands a ton," Bollant said. "You try and slow her down a lot. Keep her from going off and keep the ball out of her hands."
EIU is coming off an overtime victory against Tennessee State on Thursday and is averaging only 60.8 points per game. The Panthers did score 66 points against TSU on Thursday and shot 50 percent in the game.
"Anytime you play against good teams, you gotta make sure you shoot a good percentage," Bollant said. "You don't want to get in a game where you are just firing shots, because you aren't going to beat them when the possessions are extremely high."
Taylor Steele leads EIU with 9.4 points per game.