Intensity was the name of the game as the Belmont Bruins defeated the Jacksonville Dolphins 85-71 Saturday night.
46 combined fouls were called against both teams, which then led to 57 combined free throws for both teams.
Belmont’s grit and overall trust in each other led to the Belmont win, said Kerron Johnson, who led the Bruins with 22 points on the night.
“This team’s resilient,” Johnson said. “No one’s afraid to make a big play.”
Head coach Rick Byrd was impressed with his team’s ability to stay competitive with an improved Jacksonville team and build a consistent lead to a win. The number of fouls in the game changed its dynamic, he said.
“It makes it a blue-collar game,” Byrd said. “It’s not pretty. It’s hard to officiate.”
Johnson, a junior, felt playing Jacksonville is always a good physical test that prepares them for conference play.
“[Playing Jacksonville] is always gonna be a dogfight. They pushed us, forced us to box out,” he said.
Both teams exchanged the lead back and forth for the entire first half and part of the second. There were ten ties and five lead changes in the game before Jacksonville’s Delwan Graham hit a jumper with nine minutes to go to give the Dolphins their first lead since the first half.
Johnson then scored five points in a row, leading the Bruins on a 10-0 run than cemented the lead for Belmont.
Late in the game, Byrd changed the team’s gameplan, giving Johnson the chance to drive the ball and make plays. He scored 16 of the Bruins’ final 23 points.
“He makes you a pretty good coach sometimes,” Byrd said. “You can’t draw it up. He just makes stuff happen.”
In addition to the 46 personal fouls called, Byrd was also called for a technical foul, his third of the season.
The technical was given near the middle of the first half after an extended conversation between Byrd and an official earlier in the game.
“I thought there was a moving screen. I made my thoughts known, and the official felt it was enough to warrant a technical. It happens sometimes,” he said.
Blake Jenkins also had 18 points for the Bruins, a career-high, while Ian Clark and Drew Hanlen had 13 and 10 points respectively.
Aloys Cabell scored 24 points for the Dolphins, while Russell Powell scored 15.
The Bruins’ record went to 15-7 with the win. Their next game is Monday night at home versus North Florida.