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Johnson’s charity shots lead to Bruin win

Another game. Another record.

Kerron Johnson tied the program record for free throws made by shooting 19-for-21 from the line, allowing him to tie with his career high of 25 points in the Belmont men’s basketball team’s 93-74 win over the Morehead State Eagles Thursday night.

“Since the (previous) Morehead game, he’s been a big difference maker in the past two games. He’s making better decisions on offense and certainly better decisions and dialed in defensively tonight. Just overall, his effort was terrific,” said Belmont coach Rick Byrd.

Johnson’s record breaking performance, which also included seven steals and six rebounds, led the Bruins in the win after they team barely scraped by the Eagles 64-63 one week ago.

“We hardly made an adjustment. We were just more engaged and ready to play in this game than we were last Thursday,” said Byrd. “Last Thursday was a disappointment and it took us well over a half to play like we were supposed to play.”

Belmont, now 9-0 in conference play, has now won 16 consecutive home games, and 37 out of the last 38.

Blake Jenkins kicked off the scoring for the Bruins early, sinking a two near the perimeter followed by a shot in the paint. JJ Mann and Ian Clark both drove their own twos in the paint giving Belmont an 8-1 lead three minutes into the game.

Morehead struck back when Bakari Turner sank two consecutive threes and a layup to give the Eagles a one point lead 11-10 with 14 minutes in the half.

“They’re really the most physical team in the league, and they get a lot of rebounds and that speaks to them. Not a lot of people like playing them all game.They just keep coming and coming,” said Johnson.

Threes from Clark and Reece Chamberlain along with five Morehead fouls and five turnovers overall allowed Belmont to go on a 14-2 scoring run and regain a 24-13 lead as the half neared the 12-minute mark.

Belmont’s defense continued to create opportunities for the offense in the next four minutes as the Bruins scored nine points off of three steals and four rebounds, extending Belmont’s lead to 20..

After a Morehead run, a late three by Mann gave the Bruins a 55-36 lead at the end of half. Belmont forced 15 turnovers and committed 10 steals compared to Morehead State’s five forced turnovers and two steals. Johnson was a perfect 14-for-14 from the free throw line, leading the Bruins in scoring with 18 points total in the half.

“I really got back to my roots, and let my defense create my offense and really let people create for me sometimes,” Johnson said.

Johnson was able to drive down the court and pick up a foul minutes into the second half. Mann and Jenkins would follow up with a three and two respectively to help the Bruins maintain a 20-point lead near the 16 minute mark.

Despite efforts from Morehead’s Kelly and Angelo Warner the Eagles still could not overcome Johnson’s sharp shooting.

The Bruins continued to dominate the second half as Johnson broke Belmont’s record for free throws made in a game near the 10-minute mark.

Belmont’s bench was able to contribute in the last two minutes of the game as they cruised to victory thanks to a two in the paint from Jeff Laidig.

The Bruins finished the night scoring 31 points off of 24 turnovers.

“We created a lot of turnovers and got a lot of deflections. They’re a hard-charging kind of team. They actually shot the ball very well from the three. We got a lot of easy baskets off the defense,” Byrd said.

Belmont will host Tennessee Tech this Saturday at 7 p.m. for Homecoming.

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