Senior guard Ian Clark scored a career-high 32 points in a 90-53 Belmont victory against UT Martin Saturday evening at the Curb Event Center.
Clark was all the Bruins needed to take control of the game early as he outscored the Skyhawks on his own with 24 points in the first half.
The Bruins opened the contest and never looked back as two Blake Jenkins’ steals allowed Kerron Johnson, Reece Chamberlain and Clark to all sink baskets and give Belmont an an 8-2 lead in the game’s first six minutes.
“Reece showed people a lot of his athleticism. He knocks down threes and he takes care of the ball,” said coach Rick Byrd. “Reece’s ability to step in for Kerron has been a part of our success that a lot of people don’t really know.”
UT Martin forward Myles Taylor would sink two field goals of his own to keep the Skyhawks within four points of the lead midway through the half. From there though, Belmont went on a 16-4 scoring run led by Clark’s 12 points to take a 31-16 advantage with minutes to go in the half.
Thanks to four steals and two defensive rebounds by Brandon Baker, Clark left the half with shooting a perfect 9-for-9 with 24 points, single-handedly helping Belmont lead a struggling Skyhawks team 46-22.
The Bruins shot nearly 57 percent from the field compared to Skyhawks’ 27 percent at the half.
Johnson and freshman Craig Bradshaw helped reignite Belmont’s offense in the opening minutes of the second half, extending Belmont’s lead to 18.
“Craig had his best game tonight,” Byrd said. “He defended great, he knocked down three threes. He drove it and scored it.”
Clark earned his second consecutive 30-point game after sinking a two-pointer and a foul shot with 13 minutes remaining in the contest.
A total of 25 UT Martin turnovers also contributed to Belmont’s rout of the Skyhawks.
“We just gotta come out and play hard on the defensive end,” Clark said.
The Bruins finished the night scoring 35 points off of turnovers and 40 points in the paint. Both numbers are connected to greater experience as the season advances, Byrd said.
“We’re doing a lot of things different offensively this year, and as we do it more and get more experience, we’re making better reads and making better decisions,” Byrd said.
The game was the teams’ first meeting since Belmont’s move to the NCAA. The last time Belmont played the Skyhawks, the Bruins fell to Martin 122-98 in Rick Byrd’s second season at the helm for the Bruins.
Belmont improved to 4-0 in Ohio Valley Conference play, and the team’s next game is against Eastern Kentucky at the Curb Event Center at 6:00 p.m. on Thursday.