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Bruins’ conference play report card: Week five

Updated: Oct 3, 2022

With week five of the Bruins’ run to the conference tournament wrapped up, both sides experienced ups and downs but were able to find their levels. For those unsure, the grades are based on how they played, who they played and the quality of their opponent.

Belmont Men’s grade: B-

The Good:

The good for the Bruins this past week can be found in their bench production and team’s defense. Both of these factors contributed to their two wins last week.

Against Tennessee Tech, Belmont’s bench contributed 34 of the 90 points scored. Caleb Hollander and Nick Hopkins both scored in double figures with 12 and 10 points, respectively.

More impressively, Hollander scored those double figures while only seeing seven minutes of game time. During that stretch he went 4-5 from the field and 2-3 from the three point line. Another big contributor off the bench was guard Mitch Listau, who, in his limited minutes, went 3-6 from the field and 2-5 from three. He ended the game with 9 points, giving the Bruins a much needed lift.

The bench has been a question for the Bruins all season long and, based on production, things seem to be turning around. The bench did a great job holding the lead when Grayson Murphy and Nick Muszinski weren’t on the court.

Another factor in the Bruins’ recent success has, again, been the team’s defense. They forced 14 turnovers against Tennessee Tech. They were able to disrupt their passing lanes, and speed up their guards, forcing Tech out of their game plan.

The game against Jacksonville State was even better. They forced 22 turnovers and limited Jacksonville’s offense to only 64 points. On a night where Jacksonville shot 50 percent from the floor, Belmont held them to only 46 total shot attempts.

These are great signs for the Bruin faithful. Especially headed into a big week six that could shed light on how the OVC race will finish up.

The Bad:

Being outscored in the second half 59-46 to a team that has five wins on the season is not ideal. The second half of the game seemed to get away from the Bruins. They strolled away from what had been working for the majority of the night, and as a result, Tennessee Tech found a way back into the game.

They were able to secure the win, and ride their star players home. Yet, it is still troubling to see the team struggle in close games late in the season.

The question has been, who are they going to rely on when they need a late game bucket?

We have seen glimpses of Adam Kunkel close games. We have seen Nick Muszynski close out games from the low block. We have also seen graduate transfer Taylor Scanlon close out games with some big shots.

Still, a consistent closer is in question. Going into the second half of conference play, a go-to scorer will have to rise to the occasion when the Bruins have to win three straight games in the OVC Tournament.

The Ugly:

The blessing of this week was the lack of Ugly. I understand the Bruins blew a 21 point lead against Tennessee Tech, but they never completely lost handle of the game.

Though things seemed to be in question for a moment, the defense the Bruins played returned the game to a common level.

Continued defensive effort is going to define the Bruins late season results.

This week at a glance:

The Bruins play Murray State on Thursday and Austin Peay on Saturday at the Curb Event Center. Both teams are on top of the OVC, and wins for the Bruins can shake up the conference standings.

Women’s Grade: C

The Good

The first game of week five against Tennessee Tech resulted in a hopeful stride towards the improvement of their shooting percentages. Against the then number one shooting offense in the OVC, the women showed exactly why they are the best defensive team in the conference, as they held a team who on average puts up 71.9 points per game to just 47.

On the offensive side, they shot well above average and put up their best percentages of the season, going 37.5 percent from the field and 34.8 percent from behind the arc.

This statement win, of course, didn’t come without the outstanding efforts of Ellie Harmeyer who put up her 14th double-double with 22 points and 14 rebounds.

Fellow seniors Maura Muensterman and Maddie Wright also came in clutch to help earn the win that they were favored to lose. Muensterman showed up big time on the offensive side putting up 17 points that included five threes. Wright helped out defensively tallying nine boards, six of them coming from the defensive end of the floor.

The Bruins were finally showing signs of a spark in their offense in their win against Tennessee Tech, if they can keep up this offensive momentum they might look forward to giving them a run for their buckets come conference tournament season.

The Bad

Just as quickly as the Bruins showed signs of improvement, they displayed major inconsistency in their shooting during the second game of the week at Jacksonville State.

They shot for their most terrible percentages this conference season at 21 percent from the field, and 13.6 percent behind the arc. Jacksonville, who has the second highest scoring defense just under Belmont gave the Bruins a taste of their own medicine holding them to just 9 points in the first quarter and 8 points in the second and third quarters.

However, Jacksonville is a team that sits only one spot above the Bruins at eighth in scoring. On average, both Belmont and Jacksonville put up about 60 points per game. Statistically speaking, the final score should have been more down-to-the-wire than it was.

The Bruins’ offense was heavily impacted by the rare instance that Ellie Harmeyer had an “off-night.” Although Harmeyer was able to record her 15th double-double, it favored defensively as she put up just 11 points compared to her average 18, paired with 12 rebounds.

This loss showed this women’s team how important it is for Harmeyer to abundantly show up on both ends of the floor each game, or better yet, how important it is for the depth of their team to build tremendously.

The Ugly

The entirety of the women’s offensive production has been impacted by the fact that there has been no consistent depth to a portion of the starting lineup or the bench whatsoever.

Especially considering the fact that three out of the five starters that spend over 20 minutes on the floor average single digits across the board.

When it comes to reserves coming off the bench, usually two players clock in for about 15 to 20 minutes per game, and score in single digits as well. We have now caught the first glimpse at what this Belmont team is capable of without the usual commanding presence of Harmeyer on the floor.

A victory against a top scoring team is a very telling sign of the positive characteristics and potential of this team, as we saw in their win against Tennessee Tech.

However, it is just as telling when a team loses by almost 20 points against a team that has a near losing record in the conference, mostly because their star senior wasn’t as impactful as usual.

It will be interesting to see what coach Bart Brooks does with this specific sign of weakness, and how he can motivate his players to collectively improve an issue that has been consistently weighing heavy on this team in the coming weeks.

Week 6 at a glance:

The Women will take on Murray State and Austin Peay at home in the Curb Event Center, both teams they have beaten on the road in their recent — and for the most part, successful — four game road tour.

Article written by Ian Kayanja and Julieann Challacombe.

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