Sports, Thrill of Victory

Belmont basketball teams riding impressive streaks in conference play

Rick Byrd once again has the Belmont men's basketball team in impressive form during the stretch run of the season. PHOTO BY MATTHEW MAXEY

It appears that the Belmont men’s and women’s basketball programs are trying to one-up each other.

Cameron Newbauer’s women’s team has now won 14 straight games overall after Wednesday’s 61-52 victory over Jacksonville State. It’s the most consecutive victories for the team in its Division I history.

Meanwhile, Rick Byrd’s men’s team has won 13 straight games overall and will travel to Jacksonville State on Thursday night (6 PM CST, CBS Sports Network) to try to match the women’s streak.

27 straight wins and undefeated OVC records for the school’s two basketball teams?

That’s not something that happens often in today’s college basketball landscape.

In fact, New Mexico State is the only other school in Division I basketball right now that still has both basketball teams undefeated in conference play.

Yeah, you could say things are going quite well for Belmont basketball these days.

On the women’s side, Newbauer’s team is finding OVC success due to great balance. Five players currently average double-figures in scoring, with Kylee Smith leading the charge at 14.7 points per game in conference play and Darby Maggard not far behind at 14.6 PPG.

Sally McCabe, Jenny Roy, and Lauren Thompson are the other three hitting double digits on a regular basis against OVC competition.

Another key for Newbauer has been outscoring conference opponents 215-155 in the first quarter, which has helped the Bruins develop an early confidence that has carried on throughout the game.

As for Byrd’s squad, it’s another dominant season in what’s been a long line of them over the years.

In addition to the incredible winning streak, the Bruins have won an NCAA-best nine consecutive road games this season. Their last loss came on November 23 at Rhode Island.

And as usual, it’s been the play of reigning OVC Player of the Year Evan Bradds that has fueled the Bruins all year long.

Bradds is averaging 21.2 points and 8.7 rebounds per contest this season, and yet again, his efficiency has been the most impactful part of his game.

He’s currently shooting 62.2% from the floor, which has allowed the Bruins to lead the nation in two-point field goal percentage.

Byrd is also getting great production from other key players. Amanze Egekeze and Taylor Barnette are both averaging around 12 points per game. Austin Luke (top five nationally in assists) and Dylan Windler (solid scorer and rebounder) have also played a huge part. And senior Nick Smith continues to give the Bruins a boost off the bench (9.6 PPG).

Success in college basketball doesn’t come easy. In a season where parity has reigned supreme, Belmont basketball has done nothing but win.

And win some more. And win some more after that.

For Nashville residents, the success of Belmont basketball has never been much of a secret. Both programs are experiencing massive success, and there’s no reason to think that’ll change anytime soon.

Newbauer’s team has now scored back-to-back 20-win seasons, and Byrd’s team is well on its way to yet another conference title.

For now, these teams will continue to try to out-streak the other.

Current tally: Belmont women 14, Belmont men 13.

Your move, gentlemen.