Jen Smith on Basketball

Belmont ready to ‘chuck it from the cheap seats’ against Cats on Friday

AP

Only a coach born and raised in Indiana can use the quote and not seem too cheesy using it.

“I love the movie 'Hoosiers,'” Belmont Coach Cameron Newbauer said. “There’s a line that we’ve taken from the movie that we like to use a lot. We like to ‘chuck it from the cheap seats.’ If we’re open and our players feel good about it, then we can take it.”

Indeed they do.

Kentucky’s first-round NCAA Tournament opponent on Friday will test the Cats’ three-point defense in a big way. The Bruins are top-30 nationally in three-pointers made (272), threes made per game (8.5) and three-pointers attempted (734).

Seven games into the season, every player on Belmont’s team had made a three-pointer. Two players, Kylee Smith and Darby Maggard, have made 72 or more of them this season.

By contrast, no UK player has made even 50 yet.

“Coach told us that this is one of the deadliest three-point shooting teams that we’ve seen,” UK’s Makayla Epps said. “I thought Missouri was pretty hot, and their offense is better than Missouri. So, you’ve got to respect them for what they’ve done.”

Maggard, a 5-foot-5 sophomore guard also from Indiana, is the only player in Division I who is top-five in both three-pointers made (second at 111) and three-point percentage (second at 49.1 percent).

“It’s something that I’ve done all my life, and it’s something that we do as a team every single day,” Maggard said. “In practice, we shoot a lot of threes, and it’s just a part of our offense. So, it’s Coach Cam pretty much.”

The team doesn’t just sprint and shoot, though. They try to build offense from inside out, Smith said.

“All year, we have done really well sharing the ball,” she said. “Someone might have a good shot, but we want the great shot, so we make the extra pass.”

Kentucky is among the worst three-point shooting defense teams in the Southeastern Conference (and 298th nationally), allowing opponents to shoot 34 percent from the field. Missouri and Oklahoma both had 11 made threes in a game against the Cats this season.

Hot-shooting Belmont, with its 21-game win streak and 13 road wins this season, has UK Coach Matthew Mitchell’s attention.

“They are an explosive offensive team,” he said. “When you average 80 points per game, that is impressive. They can score. They are lethal behind the three-point line. It’s incredible to see.”

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