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Bruins open season with Bison blowout

For a season opener, Belmont men’s basketball coach Rick Byrd said the 89 points his team scored looked pretty good.

They seemed even better when they were against the rival Lipscomb Bison in a 29-point Battle of the Boulevard win.

The Bruins never trailed for the entire game as they defeated the Bison 89-60 at Allen Arena Friday night.

Byrd said the game was an important one for his team, one that had to change its identity after the graduation of longtime starters Drew Hanlen, Mick Hedgepeth and Scott Saunders.

“For our team this year, this turned out to be a really good win for us,” Byrd said. “Although we’ve got a lot of guys who’ve won games, this is a different team… Coming here and winning by this margin against a team I think, and their coaching staff thinks, is an improved basketball team was really good for this team’s confidence.”

Senior guard Kerron Johnson, who led all scorers with 22 points, said the team had to show they could maintain the offense they had last year even with a partially new starting five.

“We knew we had to step up the scoring from last year,” Johnson said. “I think we showed it tonight.”

That stepped-up scoring, the most against Lipscomb since 2008, came from their entire starting lineup. The team shot 50 percent from the field on the night as all five starters scored in double figures. Senior Ian Clark was second-highest scorer on the team with 19 points and five 3-pointers. Juniors J.J. Mann and Blake Jenkins had 17 and 11 points respectively.

Senior Trevor Noack started the scoring for the Bruins in the first half. The 6-foot-7 forward led all scorers in the half with 11 points in his first start since the 2010-11 season.

After a slow start in the first half, the Bruins picked up the pace and scored 10 points in two minutes to take an early lead. Their 16-8 run at the end of the half gave them a 42-26 advantage at halftime. The Bruins shot 53.6 percent from the field and hit six 3-pointers in the period, while Lipscomb made of 11 of their 29 field goal tries in the half.

The Bison held with the Bruins for most of the second half and kept the score within 15 points until late in the game. Led by the game’s starters, Belmont went on a 18-4 run in the last eight minutes to take control of the game.

After seeing Lipscomb teams comeback against Belmont in past years, Johnson knew the team needed to do all it could to ensure the win.

“We were determined this year to not let it happen again,” he said.

The team’s 11 3-pointers, including four in the last 10 minutes, were crucial to the win, Byrd said.

“If we make only four of those, which is what more like we did in our scrimmages, that’s 21 points, and it’s anyone’s game,” he said.

With the win, the Bruins expanded their regular season winning streak to 13 games. They will play Maryville (Mo.) in their home opener Tuesday night.

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