Bruins’ conference play report card: Week seven
Homecoming week is now behind us and both Bruin teams ended the week on a high note, winning both their games. Caught between all the fanfare of Saturday was the Rick Byrd Court ceremony, and man was it special. Without further introduction, here are this week’s grades for the Belmont Bruins men’s and women’s basketball teams.
Belmont Men’s Grade: A
For the second straight week the Bruins have received an A for its on court performances. Which means, again, there is a lot of good available to talk about. To summarize things better i’m going to divide the good into three subsections: team defense, Nick Muszynski and total offensive production.
Team Defense: This Bruins team doesn’t get its share of celebration for the defensive effort it puts in night in and night out. Last week I highlighted a noted change in commitment on that side of the floor, and this week they have taken things to a new level.
Against Tennessee State, Belmont was a disruption machine. They were able to force 23 turnovers. Completely limiting TSU’s potential offensive production.
Off of those 23 turnovers, the Bruins managed to score 29 points off of turnovers. This means they were getting easy looks in transition or semi-transition, and capitalized off of all the added opportunities their great defense created for them.
The key to this defensive resurgence has been Grayson Murphy, who in the game against TSU totaled five steals. His adept nature for theft on the court has been the driving factor in Belmonts transition success and offensive bump.
Nick Muszynski: Last week I touched on how he looked just a step slow on both offense and defense. Well, this past week he was anything but that.
The next level for this team lies in its ability to unlock Muszynski once everything else falls into place, and against TSU and Jacksonville State the team did that.
Against TSU he totaled 21 points, seven rebounds and five assists. The offense has a higher ceiling when he is passing out of the post and seeing the floor from the top of the key.
Muszynski is an underrated passer at the center position, and when he is at his best seems to be when he is able to read the defense, react and then find an open teammate. Especially when he gets his own offense going early, because defenses are forced to double team him to get the ball out of his hands.
The game against the JSU Gamecocks saw Muszynski produce a double-double, and added a bit of flair with five assists.
The team’s offense is different when they run through Muszynski. What the Bruins have to worry about is him continuing this effort every night. Yet, he seems to be peaking at just the right time.
Total team offense: Belmont as a team has seen a rise in their scoring output from the beginning of the season until now. They now sit number eight in the country in points per game at 81.1, according to Fox Sports.
They sit behind great programs like Gonzaga, Duke and the University of Dayton. Which isn’t a bad company by any means.
This past week they are averaging 87.5 points per game, which puts them well over their season average. And again, the bump in scoring is in part due to their great defense and the ability to get out on the break and score often.
The eye opening aspect of this is that, this Bruins team has not reached its full offensive potential. However, the team is reaching its apex at the right time of the season.
The bad is much smaller, and it may feel as though i am nitpicking because the team won, but rebounding has been a concern for the Bruins as of late.
In both games this week the Bruins have been outrebounded by a total of 84 to 66.
Rebounding is a complete effort stat. When a player is a great rebounder what it often comes down to is effort and a willingness to do the work of getting into position early.
Belmont need to recommit themselves to rebounding again if they hope to make a deep run in the OVC Tournament.
With a Center like Muszynski and a forward like Tyler Scanlon, Belmont should be more committed to crashing the defensive glass to control the game.
Winning the rebounding battle isn’t the end all be all to every game, but it plays a very important role into how a team controls the pace of the game and the number of possessions available for the Bruins.
Free throw shooting has been a problem for the Bruins all season.
In some games the team struggles to get to the line, and often when they are there they do not convert on those opportunities.
Against TSU the Bruins only got to the line 16 times and made eight of those. The team has left a bevy of points on the table due to missed free throws.
Great teams are able to score when the clock is stopped. This means increasing the free throw attempts and makes going forth.
The potential is there, the team just has to convert on the easy opportunities.
This week at a glance:
The Bruins are headed to Morehead State who sit at the six spot in the OVC standings. This is a game the Bruins shouldn’t drop, as Morehead is two games under .500, and a loss would all but end the Bruins chances to secure the second seed and a double bye in the tournament.
The Saturday game is up against Eastern Kentucky University, and they have had a great season. They sit directly behind the Bruins in the OVC Table. They hold a record of 10-4 in conference play, but this is a team the Bruins handled pretty well when they played in the Curb Event Center.
Belmont Women’s Grade: B+
First and foremost, the topic that needs to be discussed is Ellie Harmeyer’s monster performance this week against both Tennessee State and Jacksonville State.
She recorded her seventeenth and eighteenth double-doubles this week with yet again outrageous numbers. On Thursday against Tennessee State, Harmeyer recorded 28 points and 18 boards. With a one day break in between, she came back on Saturday and tied her career high 30 points paired with 12 rebounds.
With each game, Harmeyer exemplifies what it looks like to give your all on each end of the floor, and play to the whistle. She currently holds first place in the OVC for rebounding and second in both scoring and field goal percentage. She’s up for a couple of awards too, but she isn’t just making her case in the OVC, she also has her name on the board nationally too.
Harmeyer also currently holds first in defensive rebounds per game in the nation and second in double-doubles, where she was tied for fourth in the nation just a few weeks ago.
Along with Harmeyer’s ability to continuously dominate the floor, the overall shooting percentages of the team have shown continuous consistency too.
Over the two games during week seven, the Bruins shot an average of 40 percent. This is an area where from week to week, we didn’t know what we would get from the Bruins. One week they would shoot 35 percent, the next under 30, and after that 38 percent.
As the Bruins prepare for the tournament, it is crucial that their offense continue to practice accuracy. Especially being that as of now, they are fifth in the OVC for field goal percentages behind four great teams averaging over 40 percent.
It has been nice to see positive consistency for the Bruins, but they have also started to show consistency on the negative side concerning offensive awareness.
In recent weeks, the Bruins have allowed more turnovers than they have all season. Specifically this week, their opponents were able to force 36 turnovers over two games and in total get 46 points off of those turnovers.
More so in their win against Tennessee State, the Bruins allowed 19 turnovers that turned into 27 of the 58 points on the night for the Tigers.
Overall, the Bruins are twelth in the OVC for their turnover margin of -5.72 and eighth in assist to turnover ratios, specifically turning the ball over 73 percent of the time a player tries to make a pass play.
On a defensive note, the Bruins are committing too many pointless fouls that send their opponents to the stripe. The worst case this week was against jacksonville state, when they sent the Gamecocks to the line 22 times where they were able to convert 18 of them.
To sum up the reasoning behind these issues, 34 of Jacksonville’s 49 points were a result of Belmont’s mistakes either because of turnovers or fouls that sent them to the line.
Moving forward, the Bruins are definitely going to have to clean up their act on the floor and pay attention to detail because every little mistake counts, and it will count big come the OVC tournament.
One scary aspect of the Bruin’s success this week is that in one specific instance, they put themselves into an unnecessary situation that forced them to work harder than they needed to.
This is not to say that they shouldn’t grind from the first whistle to the last, but that they need to finish games as they had played the whole time, especially when you have a 20 point lead going into the fourth quarter.
Going into the fourth quarter on Saturday, the Bruins had a 49-28 lead going into the last quarter. As the clock began however, they had seemed to shut down completely after allowing the Gamecocks to go on a 24-3 run that brought their deficit to less than 10 in just five minutes.
Of course we are aware what Jacksonville State is capable of after their performance just two weeks before. However, with such an extensive lead and amazing individual performances in Harmeyer and Wright to back it up, they should not have let it get nearly as close.
They displayed one of their worst fourth quarters so far in conference play, and in the tournament, the fourth quarter is where the real winners are made.
This Week at a Glance
Next up, the Bruins will hit the road to play Morehead State and Eastern Kentucky who are ninth and 10th in the OVC and both hold losing records. The Bruins should use these matchups as a way to boost their confidence and clearly define where they need work as they gear up for the tournament season.
Article written by Julieann Challacombe and Ian Kayanja.