After committing a season-high 21 turnovers combined with poor shooting in the second half, the men’s basketball team fell to VCU Rams 81-68, who lead the nation in turnovers forced coming into the contest.
With the loss, the Bruins ended the nation’s best home winning streak at 23 games.
“I’m really not disappointed at the disparity in the turnovers. They had 15, we had 21. I would have taken those numbers before the game because they can turn you over like crazy,” Belmont coach Rick Byrd said.
JJ Mann scored his 1,000th career point as a Bruin and co-led team scoring with Blake Jenkins Drew Windler put up 13 points and nine rebounds.
“JJ is such a blessing to our team. He is going to score a whole lot more than a thousand. He is tough, played 39 minutes in a very up and down basketball game,” Byrd said.
Belmont wasted no time getting to work behind the arc as Windler, Craig Bradshaw and Mann drained four three pointers in the first five minutes for the Bruins.
After building a 9-2 lead, the Rams were able to pull within one with just over three minutes into the contest thanks to a free throw shot by Melvin Johnson.
After a huge block from Jenkins and steal from Bradshaw, the Bruins switched up the offense and started to move inside the post to build a 23-13 lead with 11:55 to go in the first.
Over the next four minutes, VCU capitalized on a Belmont scoring drought as the Rams scored six unanswered points to cut the lead 23-17.
Three free throws from Treveon Graham tied the game at 31 a piece with 4:42 to go in the first half.
A consequent trey from Graham gave the Rams their first lead of the night with 2:13 to go.
VCU went into the half with a 38-35 lead despite shooting less than 40 percent from the field.
“They weren’t scoring and because they weren’t scoring, they couldn’t press us. It really got us up ahead.”
From the arc in the first, the Bruins made six of nine attempts while the Rams made three of 10.
After a Jenkins layup helped Belmont retake the lead in the second half, the Bruins pushed their lead behind the strong play from Windler who scored six straight points to put his team up 50-44.
“I thought Drew Windler had his best overall basketball game. He has probably scored more points than 13 but nine rebounds and he was physical and tough,” Byrd said.
However, the Rams would go on a 24-4 run proving too much for the Bruins to overcome.
VCU heavily improved on its shooting to 61.5% in the second thanks to play from Reddic who scored a double double for the Rams with 18 points and 11 rebounds. Graham and Johnson added 16 points each.
“We created a tremendous atmosphere in here today. I appreciate the people who came out, it’s not usual for us to get a near capacity crowd. Despite the loss, it was a pretty great day for Belmont basketball,” Byrd said.
Belmont will travel down the road to Murfreesboro to take on in-state rival MTSU on Tuesday. Tip-off is set for 7 pm at the Murphy Center.