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Bruins’ conference play report card: Week six

Updated: Oct 3, 2022

The tide of the season has turned, and Belmont’s men’s and women’s teams both found their groove at just the right time. Week six featured some of the best basketball Belmont has played all season. Remember, these grades are based on how they play, who they play and the result of the games. Week six saw Belmont play its conference rivals Murray State and Austin Peay. Without further introduction, here are the week six grades.

Belmont Men’s: A

The Good

The Bruins have figured out how to play elite team defense.

The last time the Bruins played Murray state, they couldn’t stop Tevin Brown, Murray State’s sophomore guard. He burned them for 24 points, on a flurry of threes and hard drives to the basket.

This time around, in the Curb Event Center, the Bruins limited his production to 10 points, on 3-10 shooting from the field and 1-4 from the 3-point line.

They made things difficult for him all night. Often they shaded help defense his direction, and played heavy ball denial making it hard for him to even catch the ball. When he would get a touch he was so far from the basket it was taxing for him to find space to get a good shot off.

In short, the Bruin’s defense was suffocating.

Belmont managed to bait him into fouls as well. He spent much of the first half on the bench in foul trouble, which affected his rhythm and timing on the court.

The Bruins also held Murray State, as a team, to 39 percent from the field showing they made it difficult for any of the Racers’ players to get going.

Disruption was the name of the game. Belmont’s defense forced the Racers into 22 turnovers. And against Austin Peay it was more of the same as they forced them into 18 turnovers.

This team is finding its footing on that end of the floor, and it is crucial if they want to stay alive in the race for the OVC championship.

An active member of the reinvigorated Bruins defense has been freshman Ben Sheppard. His effort on that end of the floor has been incredibly impressive.

At times he has been asked to guard the opposing team’s best guard or wing, and he has handled it beautifully. He is active on and off the ball on defense. He is always in the right position to make a play, because he sets himself up to succeed on that end of the floor.

Continued success on that end of the floor lies in their willingness to stay committed to playing hard nose defense, even when it’s not pretty.

The Bad

A big question for the Bruins is how the team can get its star center Nick Muszynski going again. He managed to score 12 points on 15 shots against Murray State, and against Austin Peay, he scored only 8 points on six shots.

He has faced his fair share of double teams and shade help defense on his post ups, and that’s a function of when you play a team for the second time, and they know your tendencies. They know which way he wants to drop step, or which shoulder he is shooting his jump hook over. So it can make things difficult.

But great players and team leaders find a way to impact the game in other ways when their own offense isn’t producing.

Seeing him more involved in the offense when his shots aren’t falling can bring nothing but a bonus for a Bruin’s team that has found its groove.

Aggressively attacking the backboards and a higher commitment to playing great interior defense can add value to the already extremely valuable big man when his offensive game gets going.

A larger commitment to running the floor and truly being dominant is his next linear progression. He is a 6 foot 11 bigman, there is no one in the OVC that can guard him all game. What ways can the Bruins truly unleash him?

The Ugly

Graduate transfer Tyler Scanlon’s 1-10 three point performance against Murray State was the only blemish on an almost perfect week for the Bruins.

He found his rhythm by getting to the rim later in the game, but his outside jumpshot was not falling. He had a few airballs in the first half, and just looked a bit off.

It wasn’t pretty, but eventually it became effective as he finished the game with 21 points. Next week look for him to return to his 3-point shooting prowess.

Next week at a glance

The Bruins play Tennessee State on Thursday and Jacksonville State on saturday. They sit two games back of first place in the OVC standings, and have a conference record of 9-3.

If Austin Peay drops one of its two games this week, Belmont could jump to number two in the OVC standings resulting in a double-bye for the conference tournament.

Belmont Women’s: A

The Good

This week, the Bruins were able to improve in an area where they have been lacking for a majority of the season — their bench.

In their week six matchups against Murray State and Austin Peay, the bench produced in unprecedented ways.

In total, over the two-game span, the Bruins tallied 55 points off the bench. The most impressive display of their bench production this week was in their win against Austin Peay.

Senior Maddie Wright and junior Madison Treece combined for 23 points off the bench out of the total 69 scored that evening. Treece in particular made her time on the floor count, going 4-5 with a career high 13 points in just 11 minutes.

For this Bruin team, it’s great to see a few of their players come off the bench and make every minute of it count to give the starters some rest and support in case of an off night.

The Bruins were also productive in second chance points and points off turnovers, again proving exactly why they are the best and most productive defense in the OVC, along with the fact that they average 43 boards per game of course. Over the two-game span, they tallied 24 second chance points and likewise in points off turnovers.

Both ends of the floor were solid on the production side for the Bruins this week, we will be able to tell their level of consistency, though, in their hopefully confidence boosting win against Tennessee State on Thursday and on Friday when they take on Jacksonville State, who they took a beating to a week ago.

The Bad

For the most part this week, the women’s team has shown more improvement than decline, especially in their shot percentages and finally their bench production. The defense is continuing to play with that same high intensity that keeps them on top in the conference.

One factor that is seeming to create a notable and growing pattern is the amount of turnovers the Bruins allowed each game.

So far in the 12 games of conference play, they have averaged 14 turnovers. There are also about five conference matchups where they have allowed 15-20. This raises the question on how much more productive their offense would be if they were more aggressive and aware on the offensive side.

The Ugly

There wasn’t anything specific to label ugly in week six of conference play. Everything for this women’s team seems to be showing signs of improvement.

Next week at a glance

Tune in next week to see where the Bruins can keep up consistently and where they might not as they take on Tennessee State and Jacksonville State in the last two of their four-game home stand in the Curb Event Center.

Article by Ian Kayanja and Julieann Challacombe.

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