The Belmont men’s basketball team balanced its stout defense with heated three-point shooting to cruise past rival Lipscomb 87-62 in the 135th meeting between the programs Monday night.
The Bruins knocked down 16 shots from behind the arc, more than tripling their three-point total against Wright State just three days ago.
Defensively, Belmont outrebounded Lipscomb 41-32 while adding six blocks and eight steals.
“I thought overall we were a lot more active, active defensively and made some things happen. When you play that way on the defensive end, it’s just funny how you loosen up and shoot well. We just played with far more purpose tonight,” said Belmont coach Rick Byrd.
Junior guard Craig Bradshaw led the Bruins with 22 points and career-high eight assists while Virginia transfer Taylor Barnette added a career-high 17 points in his first battle game for Belmont.
Barnette said Byrd’s emphasis on the defensive end set the tone for the team’s performance throughout the night.
“Our team will came out with a mindset tonight to lock down on defense. We did that. Shots were falling, and it made everything easier,” said Barnette.
Belmont spread the wealth early in the opening three minutes as the Bruins built a quick 10-2 lead. Minutes later, Reece Chamberlain’s 3-pointer extended Belmont’s lead 22-8.
With 11 minutes remaining in the first half, a floater from Josh Williams pulled the Bisons within eight, one of their closest deficits of the night.
Belmont exploded on yet another hot-shooting run and doubled its lead when Chamberlain’s behind-the-back pass found a wide-open Amanze Egekeze for the three with nine minutes remaining in the half.
Defensively, Belmont held Lipscomb scoreless for five minutes until Talbott Denny scored off the offensive rebound with six minutes until halftime.
Three consecutive treys pushed Belmont’s lead 43-26 with three minutes remaining, however Lipscomb guard Nathan Moran drained a three in the final 30 seconds to bring the Bisons with 11 at halftime.
The Bruins shot 54.5 percent overall from the field and knocked down nine 3-pointers in the first half.
“Guys were setting good screens and moving the ball well. We had some good shots in transition, so everybody was moving the ball,” said Barnette.
The sophomore transfer opened the second half with a pair of threes, and the inside play from Bradshaw allowed Belmont to jump out to a 58-43 lead.
Consecutive blocks by Evan Bradds and Bradshaw kept the Bisons at bay on back-to-back possessions. But Lipscomb eventually put together a 7-0 run and held the Bruins scoreless for a few minutes until a dunk from Bradds ended the drought.
Bradds finished one point and one rebound shy of a double-double but led the team with nine rebounds.
Two more 3-pointers from Holden Mobley and Nick Smith put the game out of reach for the Bisons. Smith recorded a career-high 13 points, nine of which came from three-point range.
While Belmont created a few sloppy turnovers in the final minutes, the Bruins held on for the 25-point win, 87-62.
Overall, Belmont shot 58 percent from the field while its defense held Lipscomb to 33 percent.
“Coach has been emphasizing defense ever since our first game last Friday, and we’ve been working on that a lot,” said Barnette. “So putting together stops and creating turnovers was a goal of ours for sure in every game, and we executed that tonight.”
Belmont will open the home portion of its schedule on Wednesday against Trevecca-Nazarene with tipoff set for 7 p.m. The annual “First on the Floor” festivities will start at 6 p.m.
Photos by Emily Proud
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