The Belmont men’s basketball team defeated Stetson 82-64 on Jan. 30, giving head coach Rick Byrd his 600th career win. In typical Byrd fashion, Belmont’s coach for more than 25 years deflected attention away from himself.
“Career victories are something you think about when you’re in a rocking chair in front of the fireplace,” Byrd said. “The players, the coaching staff as a whole earn those things. An individual can’t make those things happen.”
But No. 600, didn’t come without resistance.
The Bruins got off to a slow start against the Hatters, struggling to get ball movement and offensive looks against Stetson’s spread out 2-1-2 zone.
“We weren’t taking care of the ball,” Belmont point guard Drew Hanlen said.
Stetson attacked the post early on, taking a 14-9 lead six minutes into the half.
“Their big guy is hard to stop inside. We tried doubling, we fronted him some, we had to try several different things,” Byrd said.
After J.J. Mann and Kerron Johnson connected on consecutive three-point baskets to cut the lead to one, a backdoor play to Blake Jenkins with 11:00 left gave Belmont a 17-16 lead.
After some slow, methodical play, Ian Clark brought the Curb Event Center to life with a steal and breakaway layup, followed by a floater in the lane that gave Belmont a 21-18 lead with six minutes left in the half.
Belmont went on a 14-2 run going into the half, led by two three-pointers from Jordan Campbell. 41-23 Bruins.
Stetson came out of the gates firing, led by guard Corey Walden, but Belmont responded with precise execution against the Hatters’ switching defenses.
“We made an emphasis on not letting the post catch the ball so we didn’t have to help off as much,” Hanlen said. “We kinda slowed them down.”
Shuffling guys in and out of the lineup, the Bruins controlled the tempo of the second half, leading 65-41 with 10 minutes to play.
“Our depth helps us,” Byrd said.
For the game, the Bruins shot 46.4 percent from the field, as well as 48.1 percent from three-point range.
Walden led all scorers with 19.
Hanlen and Ian Clark shared top scoring honors for Belmont, each with 14 points.