The Curb Event Center was a sea of red tonight for the rivalry game between Belmont and Murray State.
But it wasn’t just the game that sent everyone into a frenzy.
Junior Will Sykes stepped onto the court, took a running start and drained a half-court shot to win a semester of free tuition.
Sykes is a sports administration major graduating in December 2024.
The craziest part?
His only basketball experience is pickup basketball with his friends.
As Sykes waited to take the shot, only one thing could go through his mind.
“Just don’t airball it”
When the ball went through the basket, the Curb shook with cheers as cheerleaders ran onto the court to celebrate with Sykes.
He even was awarded a check he could parade around with as the crowd celebrated his shot.
“It’s always exciting, it’s exciting for the students. I’m sitting in there with the dean, and he said, ‘that’s $20,000.’ ‘I said let them do it again,’” said Betty Wiseman, affectionately called “Belmont Betty” by fans.
The last time the half-court shot was made was in December 2021 by Kwesi Mensah, who happened to be at the game tonight.
“I knew it was going in from the arch of the shot. I was just excited to be here to see it happen,” said Mensah.
While Sykes and the rest of the student section pulled their weight in the stands, the Bruins worked hard on the court as well.
Belmont had the first points on the board and took an early lead.
But Murray State gained momentum to catch up with the Bruins.
Going into the half, it was a one-point Bruins lead.
The second half was a stressful one with lots of back-and forth action from both teams.
The crowd just got louder as the game went on and the teams became more physical.
The Bruins took the lead with a little over a minute left in the game and worked hard to hold the lead.
Two free throws made by graduate forward Jayce Willingham sealed the 69-64 win.
It was sophomore guard Ja’Kobi Gillespie’s first home game back since his injury.
He proved to be the difference with a team-high 24 points.
It was a big night for the Belmont community with two wins at the Curb Event Center: A win for Sykes, who now gets to enjoy a free semester, and a much-needed win on the court.
This win puts Belmont at 6-7 in Missouri Valley Conference play.
The Bruins travel to play Valparaiso this Saturday, hoping to start a winning streak.
This article was written by Bree Fabbie