After only leading by three at halftime, the Belmont Bruins came out strong to defeat the Tennessee Tech Golden Eagles 74-52 to improve to 10-0 in OVC play in front of a rowdy homecoming crowd Saturday night.
Even though four Bruins scored double digits on the night, coach Rick Byrd said the game was worlds away from the 31-point win over the Golden Eagles last month.
“They didn’t act like a team that came in here to see what happened last time,” he said. “They played dead even the first twenty minutes without a doubt.”
Belmont found themselves in an early 6-0 deficit as Tech’s Dennis Ogbe sank two consecutive threes in the game’s opening minutes.
“We knew he was a capable shooter, and ended up knocking down his first two and we knew we had to make an adjustment,” said junior guard JJ Mann. “We made some second half adjustments and we were able to tame him a little bit.”
Mann was the first to score for the Bruins off a fast break steal where he was allowed one shot at the charity stripe, cutting Tech’s lead to 8-3 with about 17 minutes to go in the half.
In the next three minutes, freshman guard Craig Bradshaw would score eight consecutive points, making him the half’s leading scorer and tying the game at 11.
Two straight layups from Trevor Noack combined with an Ian Clark three gave Belmont their first lead of the game toward the nine-minute mark in the half.
Both teams remained fairly quiet offensively in the next four minutes as Tech’s Jud Dillard and Belmont’s backcourt duo of Kerron Johnson and Clark each sank baskets, extending Belmont’s 22-17 lead.
In the final seconds of the half, both teams scrapped for the lead as Johnson sank a layup to give Belmont a 27-24 lead.
“We held them to 24 points, which is on pace to a 40-point game. It’s hard to be mad about that,” Mann said.
The Bruins opened the first four minutes of the second half on an 15-5 run thanks to a barrage of 3-pointers from Mann and Noack and a technical foul called on Tech’s bench.
“JJ knocking down a couple of quick threes to start the second half got them on their heels a little bit and gave our guys the confidence they needed,” Byrd said.
Reece Chamberlain and Johnson continued the Bruins’ offensive effort with nearly 11 minutes left in the game, extending the lead 48-36.
“It was anybody’s game, but we took an early lead and just kept on rolling,” Mann said.
Belmont went on a 10-2 scoring run on free throws alone in the next five minutes, giving the Bruins a comfortable 20-point lead they held for the rest of the game thanks to late threes from Noack, who led the team with 19 points on the night.
“His ability to make threes is a real plus for our team,” Byrd said. “When you set in the ball screen and his man has to help out, that’s a tough assignment.”
After tonight’s victory, the Bruins will travel on a four-game road stretch beginning Thursday at Murray State. Both teams will lead their respective OVC divisions going into the nationally televised game.