The Belmont Bruins defeated the Tennessee State Tigers 75-62 Tuesday night, extending their current home winning streak to 20 games.
The game was only a preview of what is to come when the Bruins make the move to the Tigers’ Ohio Valley Conference next season.
“I think the quality of the game and how competitive it was is a good preview of what that rivalry can be like,” head coach Rick Byrd said. “They’re a very good team. It was really a tough one for us to win. I’m really pleased to get out with a win. Coach Cooper over there is doing great things with his team in my opinion.”
Junior forward Kerron Johnson and junior guard Ian Clark each scored double digits for second game in row for the Bruins, scoring 16 and 14 points respectively. Guard Patrick Miller led the Tigers in scoring with 17 points.
Early in the first half, neither team took control until the Belmont bench found its rhythm, as sophomore J.J. Mann knocked down three straight three-pointers. The Bruins then proceeded on an 8-3 run with more than eleven minutes remaining in the half.
The Tigers then produced a run of its own to cut the lead to 38-35 before halftime.
Tennessee State kept it close in the second half and took a 47-46 lead with a three-pointer from Miller.
But Belmont was able to regain the lead thanks to the duo of Scott Saunders and Mick Hedgepeth. Saunders was a perfect 4-for-4 and Hedgepeth was 5-for-7 at the foul line. By the end of the night, the Bruins were 21-for-25 at the foul line, an impressive 84 percent.
Belmont also scored in the paint against TSU, scoring a combined 34 points in the post.
“We tried to put more of an emphasis on it. We’ve been relying too much on our perimeter players and tried to throw the ball inside more.” Byrd said. “I thought that Mick and Scott were pretty good but another part that’s good is they get fouled a lot and we got the free throw line quite a bit because we were throwing it inside. That was good to see. We haven’t been scoring very much in the paint.”
With less than five minutes left, TSU cut the lead to three after forward M.J. Rhett made a dunk and made a subsequent free throw. The Bruins then outscored the Tigers 16-7 in last five minutes of the game to secure the victory.
Belmont shot 62 percent from the field in the second half, a major improvement from their 38 percent in the first half.
The Bruins, now 6-2 on the season, will travel to Murfreesboro on Tues., Dec. 13 in a rematch against Middle Tennessee State. Belmont defeated the Blue Raiders 87-84 in double overtime last month.