Ten days ago, the Belmont Bruins mens’ basketball team lost a one-point heartbreaker to the Marshall Thundering Herd.
It was a different story Thursday night, however, as Belmont defeated Marshall 79-74, extending its home winning streak to 22 games in the Curb Event Center.
Senior Scott Saunders led the way for the Bruins with 23 points and nine rebounds. Saunders was also a perfect 7-for-7 at the free throw line.
“Scott has shot free throws well all year long, and he hasn’t always done that,” Belmont head coach Rick Byrd said. “So it’s a big plus to his game and for our team. He was really valuable for us tonight.”
Sophomore DeAndre Kane led the Thundering Herd in scoring with 25 points.
Initially, the scoring for both teams was sparse. For the majority of the first half, it was a physical battle between them, who had a combined total of 12 turnovers and nine steals. After the first twelve minutes, the score was tied at 14.
“They’re a very strong, long athletic team.” Byrd said. “But I did feel like even though they hurt us bad on the offensive boards, we got our share of offensive rebounds. I thought we gave as much as we took physically from a really physical team.”
The physical play, with the Bruins’ best three-point shooting of the night, allowed Belmont was able to go on a 13-1 run late in the first half. They went into the half with a 37-25 lead.
During the opening minutes of the second half, Marshall produced an 11-0 run of its own and got within one point of the Belmont lead. After a timeout, the Bruins then put together another 13-0 run to extend the lead to 54-38.
The Bruins maintain a double-digit lead until the Thundering Herd, led by guard Damier Pitts closed their deficit to three with one minute remaining. Guard Dago Pena missed the potential game tying three-pointer with 29 seconds remaining.
“You can’t dig a hole against a really good team like Belmont,” Marshall head coach Tom Herrion said. “We played from behind the majority of the game, and when you play on the road and you’re pushing up the hill the whole way, that’s a hard thing to do against a quality club.”
Free throws from senior Mick Hedgepeth and redshirt junior Brandon Baker sealed the victory for the Bruins, who shot 70 percent from the line. The Bruins shot 44 percent from the field overall, and only made four three-pointers on the night, a season low.
The Bruins will go on the road to face conference foes North Florida and Jacksonville before returning home to face rival Lipscomb in Battle of the Boulevard on Fri., Jan. 6.