Belmont (5-2) played well against Vanderbilt (7-1), but couldn’t put together a complete game as they fell to the Commodores, 85-76. The Bruins were out-muscled on the boards as they lost by the exact final score from their season-opening game at the University of Tennessee.
After leading 35-32 at halftime, the Bruins picked up six fouls in the opening four minutes of the second half as the Commodores went on a quick 9-2 run. Belmont was forced to play catch-up from then on, but couldn’t get back within a possession.
“The start of the second half has been hurting us,” Belmont junior center Mick Hedgepeth said. “I think we need to come out of the gate a little better in the second half and that will help a lot.”
Vanderbilt center Festus Ezeli contributed a dominating 24 points and 10 rebounds while Hedgepeth finished with 16 points and five rebounds.
The hype entering the game centered on the friendship between the two coaches, Rick Byrd and Kevin Stallings.
After the game, Stallings praised Belmont and Byrd.
“When I tell you we’re really happy to win, we’re really happy to win,” Stallings said. “They are really good. This was not a ‘they are good for Belmont.’ They are really good and I’m not saying that just because Rick is my friend.”
“If there is a better team in that league that they play in, I’d like to see it. I wouldn’t want to play it, but I’d like to see it.”
Overall, Byrd was proud of his team’s performance despite the loss.
“I think you have to measure things other than the outcome,” Byrd said. “I’m proud of the fight that they showed. I have no question about the toughness, mentally or physically, of our basketball team.”
Belmont senior Jordan Campbell said that he believes the game will help them moving forward.
“Especially for the younger guys on the team, I think this game has given them experience,” Campbell said. “I think that we learned a lot from this game and it will help us down the stretch.”