• Lillie Burke

Defensive effort pushes MBB past Tennessee Tech

Photos by Andrew Hunt

In one of the team’s best defensive performances of the season, the Belmont men’s basketball team powered past Tennessee Tech 71-53 at the Curb Event Center Saturday afternoon.

The Bruins held the Golden Eagles to the lowest points total scored by an opponent this season and allowed only 23 points in the second half.

“We shot the ball a lot and taken the last eight or 10 days to become a better defensive team. I think our guys have taken more pride in it. I was pleased with that,” said Belmont coach Rick Byrd.

Taylor Barnette led all scorers with 21 points and shot 5-for-9 from behind the arc. Evan Bradds, who leads the nation in field-goal percentage, finished with 18 points while Craig Bradshaw added 16.

As TTU went to work early inside the paint, the Bruins continued their hot 3-point shooting from their previous game. Belmont’s first nine points came off shots from behind the arc and gave them the early 9-7 lead.

After TTU pulled ahead by three, Burton Sampson scored five straight points off the bench to keep Belmont within one. Minutes later, Belmont took back the lead on a beautiful drive to the basket from Bradshaw.

Belmont kept adding onto its lead and Barnette knocked down a pair of threes including one at the shot-clock buzzer with 45 seconds remaining.

The sophomore guard went 4-for-5 from behind the arc in the first half and his 14 points sent Belmont into the locker room with a 37-30 lead.

The Bruins’ stout defense held the Golden Eagles to only one field goal in the final nine minutes of the first half

“Coaches have really been emphasizing defense all year and really been emphasizing it lately. We’ve been practicing a lot more and really getting after it. It paid off and showed,” said Barnette.

In the opening minutes of the second half, Bradshaw slammed the putback dunk off the missed Barnette three to give Belmont a 44-35 lead.

Despite poor shooting in the first half, the Golden Eagles remained down only by seven with 15 minutes remaining.

Consecutive threes from Bradshaw and a pair of dunks by Bradds eventually put the game too far out of reach for the Golden Eagles to catch up. TTU returned back to its cold shooting and converted only five shots for the remainder of the game.

Overall, Belmont shot 50 percent on the floor, including 62.5 percent in the second half, while its defense held TTU to only 36 percent.

“If we’re getting stops on defense, it’s just going to help our offense. So it just brings us energy and gives us confidence,” said Barnette.

With the victory, the Bruins have won five consecutive games and hold a 7-2 conference record.

The Bruins will hit the road for a three-game road swing starting on Thursday against divisional opponent Eastern Kentucky. Tip-off is set for 8 p.m. central and the broadcast will be available on ESPNU.

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