After nearly a month without playing at the Curb Event Center, Belmont overcame a halftime deficit to defeat Jacksonville State 78-67 in the team’s Ohio Valley Conference home opener.
While grateful for the win, coach Rick Byrd was cautious about the team’s success.
“We shouldn’t have to match anybody’s effort or anybody’s energy. Somebody on the other team is not gonna play as hard as he needs to and if all of our guys are we’ve got more effort and energy and we need to do that more consistently,” said Byrd.
The Bruins shot well from the three early, but also found their inside game with twos by Craig Bradshaw, Reece Chamberlain and Nick Smith to give Belmont a 19-15 lead nearly ten minutes into the first half.
Bradshaw was the leading scorer for Belmont, notching 18 points.
With under seven minutes to go in the half, Belmont narrowly extended its lead to 25-19 thanks to twos from Evan Bradds and Chamberlain, only to for Jacksonville to tie the score in the next two minutes of play.
Both teams found ways to capitalize inside the paint as Brian Williams fought inside for Jacksonville State while Drew Windler scored for Belmont to keep the game tied at 31 with a minute remaining in the half.
After being fouled, Tereas Clemmons and Darion Rackley both sank two successful FT’s to give the Gamecocks a 35-31 lead with almost a minute to go in the half.
Twos from JJ Mann and Nick Smith tied the contest while Clemmons was granted a buzzer beater layup to give Jacksonville State the two point advantage headed to the locker room.
“I was disappointed they could go in and shoot a layup without us defending them,” Byrd said.
After a physical opening to the second half, Belmont was able to regain the lead 47-46 after Bradds scored off an offensive rebound at the 15:57 mark.
Blake Jenkins and Caleb Chowbay helped score 9 unanswered points to extend the lead 58-48 ten minutes into the half.
Jenkins continued to have a stellar second half effort, scoring 12 points to allow Belmont to jump to a 75-62 lead with just over three minutes to go in the contest.
“Blake was probably the difference in the game. He was kind-of a no-show in the first half, had two fouls and had only played seven minutes and then he’s a real factor in the second half,” Byrd said.
Belmont hosts Tennessee Tech on Saturday at 4:00 p.m.