Bruins’ conference play report card: Week four
The Bruins are now in the heart of the conference schedule. With week four on the books, it’s time to assign the teams’ its weekly report card. These grades are based on who they play, how they played and the overall result of the games. With that being said, let’s get into this week’s grades.
Belmont Men’s grade: D+
Effort is the biggest positive that can be taken away in a week where the Bruins went 0-2.
They came in knowing they had a tall task ahead of them. This past week they played the two toughest teams in the conference. Currently Murray State sits at number one in the Ohio Valley Conference riding a nine-game win streak. Austin Peay sits at number two in the conference on an eight-game win streak of their own.
Their effort in the Thursday game against The Racers was impressive. The contest was much closer than the score indicated. Early, Belmont was doing a great job of making things difficult for Murray State’s four other starters. Holding them to a combined 35 percent from the floor.
The only real scoring punch Belmont gave up was Tevin Brown. He had 9 points in the first half, while shooting 3-5 from three. Limiting the other four starters was enough to prevent the lead Murray State could build in the first half.
Against Austin Peay, the Bruins’ team defense was again, serviceable. They limited Terry Taylor to just 13 points. An impressive feat, because he came into the contest averaging 23 points per game.
The effort they commited to throwing double and triple teams at Taylor forced him out of his rhythm early. This effort will be crucial when they meet both of these teams later down the road in February.
To see such a young team giving this amount of effort night in and night out is impressive, and it functions as a silver lining for a truly rough week in Belmont basketball.
The bad in the past week of games has been their ability to close late in the contests and defend athletic perimeter players.
We know that early they are going to go to Nick Muszynski. The result is often either an early lead or a close game throughout the first half.
Things drastically shift late in games — more so if they are playing from behind as opposed to nursing a lead. They tend to go away from Muszynski, and start pressing.
This can lead to bad shots and hurried possession. In turn their defense is playing on its back foot. Players are out of position and force fouls.
The 4 point lead the Bruins held at halftime quickly disappeared. To add insult to injury, the defense struggled to contain Murray’s guard Brown. In the second half he had 15 points, shooting 4-5 from the field and 6-6 at the freethrow line.
The size of Belmont’s backcourt is a real concern. Grayson Murphy gives you everything you want in terms of assisting and rebounding and Adam Kunkel is a great shooter at the off guard spot, but they lack size to guard bigger and more athletic backcourts.
This was the same story when facing Austin Peay. They gave up 24 points to freshman guard Jordyn Adams. He scored his points in similar ways Brown did in the Murray State game. He was able to get down hill and attack the rim, putting pressure on Belmont early.
What didn’t help was the attention Taylor was able to draw resulting in open driving lanes for Adams. Yet, it’s still very concerning that Belmont’s can’t stay in front of athletic guards on the perimeter. Especially at this point into the season.
This has been a common theme throughout the season, and when it comes down to the final stretch of the season and the OVC Tournament, will Belmont be able to stop the opposing teams go-to scoring guard?
The other question is, who will be Belmont’s go-to guy when they need a basket down the stretch?
In basketball, those are two things that matter, and if Belmont hopes to win three straight games in the OVC Tournament, they will have to work out these kinks expeditiously.
Free-throw attempts and shooting percentages have been the ugliest aspect of Belmont’s games.
In two games this week the Bruins have only attempted 21 free throws, while shooting 66 percent from the line. On the contrary, they gave up 45 free throws and their opponents shot a combined 84 percent from the line.
A trademark of a great team is the ability to get to the line and score when the clock is stopped. This has been the Bruins achilles heel. In the past week they shot under their season average with 41 percent and 66 percent from the line.
Going forward for the Bruins, converting late down the stretch at the free throw line is crucial if a postseason run is to be made.
The next week at a glance:
Belmont plays Tennessee Tech on Thursday and Jacksonville State on Saturday. The Bruins have lost the past five meetings to Jacksonville State so this next matchup will be interesting for sure.
Belmont Women’s Grade: B
The women’s team walked away from week four victorious after winning two straight on the road in a shutout game at Murray State, and then a neck-and-neck at Austin Peay.
This week the women’s team displayed a promising trajectory by not getting worse, but not exactly getting better. For all but one conference game so far this season, the Bruins have walked away with a win by effort and leadership alike.
One thing for certain, is that senior Ellie Harmeyer plays lights-out game after game, and doesn’t show any sign of stopping.
This week’s road tour was no exception. For the past two games, she averaged 24 points and 17.5 rebounds per game, and shot 50% from the field.
She recorded her 12th and 13th double-doubles, bringing her to fourth in the nation in total double-doubles this season. She also claimed the title of Tennessee Sports Writers Association Player of the Peek and Ohio Valley Conference Player of the Week.
The Bruins are now 7-1 heading into another two-game road tour, followed by a four-game homestand in the Curb Event Center. If they keep up their efforts and find ways to win, we could be looking at another regular season championship.
Although Harmeyer completely dominating the floor is an amazing thing to witness, that seems to be the only thing about this women’s team worth noting. Week after week she is the most, and sometimes the only consistent contributor for this team.
Their most recent win against Austin Peay was a perfect example of a Bruin win brought to you by the Ellie Harmeyer show.
On the offensive side, Harmeyer’s 13th double-double came with 22 of the 53 total points scored that night. She had 14 more than the next highest scorer who recorded 8 points in 39 minutes.
On the other end of the floor, she had 17 rebounds. 15 of them were of the 32 defensive of total team rebounds.
It is important to note the players who step in when Harmeyer may not be having her best night, like Conley Chin, provides an alternate weapon mostly behind the 3-point line.
There is also the occasional appearance of Maddie Wright and Maura Muensterman, who put up double figures when they do have a good night.
However, there is still an extreme issue with the depth of this team. Having only one consistent source of production at both ends of the floor is not healthy for the overall development of the team, Harmeyer or the program as a whole in the unfortunate instance that she gets injured.
The team’s program has seen a steep decline in the level of overall production and shooting percentages since the 2018-2019 season, especially behind the arc.
One of the sure fire reasons of this is the loss of their precision shooter Darby Maggard. During her last season at Belmont their three-point percentage was in the mid 30 range, where as this season’s percentage hasn’t reached over 30 so far.
They are also lacking in overall field goal percentage as it pertains to last season. This season they are shooting 38.7 percent, where as last season they were at 44.9 percent.
Another telling tale of why they are producing less, is the reiterated point of lack in depth.
Last season, and for all four seasons she played, Maggard was a big reason for the Bruins’ success. However, there were so many other contributing factors they could rely on.
Players like Jenny Roy, Kylee Smith and Ellie Harmeyer were great examples of players that contributed consistently and where they needed to specifically to each game.
Although they are winning games, they aren’t putting the ball in the net nearly enough or finding nearly enough players to do so.
For now, the efforts of Harmeyer and Chin seem to be enough to earn a winning record. Come tournament season however, they may become desperate to find confidence and consistency beyond their two promising producers.
The next week at a glance:
The Bruins will head to Cookeville on Thursday to play Tennessee Tech and then Jacksonville State on Saturday. Belmont lost its only conference game to Tech last season and played them in the OVC Tournament Semifinal.
Article written by Ian Kayanja and Julieann Challacombe.