Bruins’ conference play report card: Week three
Another week of Belmont basketball is in the books. We saw a bunch of great things from each team this week. With wins over Eastern Kentucky and Morehead State, a majority of last week’s questions were answered. With that being said, let’s get into this week’s grades.
Men’s Basketball: B+
The Bruins seem to have found their groove after a shaky start to conference play. In both games this week we have seen Nick Muszynski score above his nightly averages with a 16-point performance against EKU and a 20-point performance against Morehead State.
They have gone to him early, often resulting in early leads. Muszynski’s production can falter if he doesn’t get post touches early within the contest. When he is scoring on the left or right block it opens up perimeter shots for off-guard Adam Kunkel and swingman Tyler Scanlon.
Early touches for Muszynski also mean he is more committed to rim runs and rebounding. Both of these are crucial for the Bruins’ continued success in conference play.
Proof of this is found in Saturday’s game against Morehead. We saw two Bruins post a double-double. One was Muszynski, while the other was point guard Grayson Murphy. His ability to rebound at the lead guard position is a necessity for belmont. His rebounds lead to easy transition opportunities and chances for him to create for his teammates. Evidence of this lies within his assist numbers — he had seven on Saturday.
The play of Muszynski and Murphy are key for Belmont to win the Ohio Valley Conference regular season championship. And often in this season games have gone as well as those two have played.
Heading into next week, the Bruins sit at 3rd in OVC regular season standings with a record of 5-1.
Bench production has been an issue for the Bruins all season long. This past week that issue was exemplified.
We saw what Belmont is capable of being when they have great bench production against EKU. In that game the bench combined for 39 of the Bruins 87 points. Coach Casey Alexander went 12 deep, and almost all of those guys saw extended minutes.
That script was flipped against Morehead. The bench was only able to account for 17 of the Bruins 77 total points. For this team to contend for an OVC championship, bench production needs to be consistent. The question of who is going to bring a scoring punch off the bench still needs to be answered.
Though they both of their games this week, turnovers have been an issue. In each of the games they turned the ball over more than their opponent. Against EKU they had 11 and when facing Morehead they had 14, 10 of which came in the first half.
The Bruins are winning, so turnovers in the grand scheme of the game don’t matter. However, it is imperative that they protect the ball when it comes down to late in the season. Hopefully in this next week we can see those numbers drop.
The Bruins’ next games will be on the road facing Murray State on Thursday and Austin Peay on Saturday. Both of these games are crucial if the Bruins hope to win another OVC regular season championship.
Women’s Basketball: B
The women’s team spent week three of conference play comfortable on their home court in the Curb Event Center, where they lengthened their home game win streak to 15 against Eastern Kentucky and Morehead State respectively.
These wins displayed major improvements regarding the strength of their leaders as four of the five starters put up double-figures towards their wins in each game.
Senior Ellie Harmeyer recorded her 10th and 11th double-doubles this week, further solidifying her campaign for OVC player of the year.
Sophomore Conley Chin also put up impressive efforts this week going 10-18 from the field and shot 66 percent from behind the arc over the two-game span. She also put up a career high 17 points against Morehead State in an impressive win at home.
It is safe to say that this team does not lack leadership. However, in the future, it is vital that this exact leadership influence the team as a whole to build what they are lacking.
Harmeyer and her squad of starters are of course producing as they should, especially looking back on the previous couple of victories. However, as tournament season quickly approaches it will be crucial that the depth of their bench grow immensely.
For most of the season, the reserves off the bench have only contributed in single digits, if at all. To break their depth issue down even further, reserves that have played extended minutes off the bench so far have averaged no more than 6 points over the six total OVC matchups played.
In their most recent victory at home against Morehead State, the eagles produced 30 points off the bench that kept them a little too close for comfort.
As conference play carries on, it will be crucial for the Bruins to find comfort in their own bench to help the starters through their tough four-game road trip ahead, and later in the conference tournament.
Though the Bruins currently have a winning record in the OVC, they are relying too heavily on their defense to win games.
Averaging over 40 boards a game is an impressive thing for a team to accomplish, but not when they are shooting for less than 40 percent from the field and 29 percent from behind the arc.
Yes, a plethora of the Bruins are putting up double figures. Yes, their efforts are winning games, for now. But on average 40 of the 60 shots that they put up each game are not going in.
In the OVC, the Bruins are currently the top scoring defense, but if the Bruins want a chance at fifth straight OVC title, they need to find more open looks and execute at a more consistent rate.
Moving forward into their next three matchups, the Bruins will be facing three of the top five scoring offenses in the OVC, each of whom are averaging more than 65 points per game. The Bruins are putting up less than 60.
The coming weeks will reveal both major strengths and weaknesses that make up this Belmont team by waging the development of both their shot-making and the depth of their bench.
Article written by Ian Kayanja and Julieann Challacombe.