A hurricane of threes pushes Belmont to victory in UT Martin doubleheader
Behind the arc.
That was the key Saturday’s pair of textbook wins over the University of Tennessee Martin.
Owning their home court, the men defeated UT Martin 87-58 with an efficient 46.7% from 3-point distance while the women flew past the Skyhawks 73-48.
Men’s team shares the wealth, with five Bruins posting double-digits
Saturday’s doubleheader kickstarted with the men’s tipoff.
Sophomore guard JaCobi Wood led the team with 18 points, totaling five rebounds and six steals in his 27 minutes on the court.
But Wood wasn’t the only Bruin in the spotlight during the game. Double-digit points came from four other players, including fifth-year senior Nick Muszynski and freshman guard Will Richard.
Graduate student Grayson Murphy, who broke the Ohio Valley Conference’s all-time assists record at Monday’s away game, recorded 13 more assists and 11 rebounds for his 18th career double-double.
“It’s a cool record, but I’ll continue to say that it’s all about the team. The beauty of an assist takes two guys,” Murphy said after the game.
“Credit to my teammates. They step up and make big shots all over the floor. Without them, the record doesn’t happen.”
With four guards in the Bruins’ starting lineup, the men set the tone of the game early in the first with four of their first seven shots downed from a 3-point distance.
“We always have a lot of 3-point shooters and we try to give them a lot of freedom,” head coach Casey Alexander said. “As long as they’re good shots, I don’t care where they come from.”
The Skyhawks came out of the gate strong but lost momentum as the game raged on.
The Bruins trailed 13-12 in the first six minutes of play, but after a layup from Muszynski, Belmont began firing on all cylinders.
From that point on, Belmont didn’t trail again, and the Bruins outscored the Skyhawks 35-14 in the remainder of the half, forcing 10 turnovers to hinder their opponents.
Coming off the bench, graduate student Tate Pierson and sophomore Even Brauns both had notable first-half performances. Pierson downed two 3-pointers while Brauns splashed a memorable dunk with 3 minutes remaining in the half.
With the Bruins up 47-27 at halftime, Belmont did not let up and continued to sink 3-pointers.
Graduate student Luke Smith sank a shot nearly three minutes into the half which was followed by another three from Pierson.
Despite a phenomenal defensive performance Saturday, Murphy believes defense will be the biggest roadblock to the OVC Championship, he said.
Coach Alexander meets with his team during Belmont’s win over the University of Tennessee Martin. Belmont Vision/Sarah Maninger
“We’ve got to keep playing well. Our goal is to win the conference championship, the regular season and the tournament,” Murphy said.
Currently at 17-5 overall and 7-2 in conference play, Belmont stands at third in the OVC behind Murray State University and Morehead State University.
After a busy three-game week, the Bruins have several days off before facing neighbor Tennessee State University on Thursday at the Pete Maravich Assembly Center.
Women’s team snatches huge win with contagious sharpshooting
Belmont faced an uphill battle early in the women’s primetime game after defending OVC regular-season champions University of Tennessee at Martin came out strong.
Battling the Skyhawks in a back-and-forth that ran down the first ten minutes, the Bruins trailed by one point entering the second quarter.
But Belmont was just warming up.
As the Bruins began their scoring success with exceptional 3-point shooting, they never looked back.
Knocking down five shots from behind the arc to total 21 points in the quarter, Belmont quickly overtook UT Martin and entered halftime with a 14-point lead.
“Anytime that you play and you have a little success early, it leads to momentum, and I thought we seized that momentum in the second quarter,” head coach Bart Brooks said.
The hot shooting continued coming out of halftime as senior forward Conley Chinn sunk a 3-pointer to open the second half.
Despite the early good fortune, offensive production began to slow for both teams as the third quarter progressed with UT Martin held to just four points as a result of a solid defensive effort from the Bruins.
Things picked back up for the Bruins after senior guard Jamilyn Kinney drained a corner 3-pointer as time expired in the third.
Kinney opened the action in the last quarter with another shot from behind the arc, a shooting stroke which proved to be contagious.
“We talked about letting the game come to us,” Kinney said. “People are going to get open shots. We just have to step up and knock them down, and I think everyone today did a really good job with that.”
Freshman guard Kilyn McGuff, who led the team in scoring on the evening with 14 points, knocked down four 3-pointers total, two of which came in the fourth.
Junior guard Nikki Baird and senior Macie Culbertson each nailed shots from 3-point range, adding the exclamation point to Belmont’s already-huge margin of victory. All told, the Bruins connected on 16 of their 34 3-point field goal attempts.
“That’s what we see a lot in practice,” Brooks said. “It was nice to see it in a game, and it was great to see so many players contribute.”
“It wasn’t just one player tonight,” he said.
The Bruins are now tied with Tennessee Tech University atop the OVC with 11-7 overall and a 7-2 in-conference record.
The team will travel to Tennessee State University on Thursday for a chance to retake first place in the conference.
PHOTO: Jamilyn Kinney during Belmont’s win over the University of Tennessee Martin. Belmont Vision/Sarah Maninger
This article was written by Landen Secrest and A.J. Wuest.