The Belmont Bruins beat the Murray State Racers 81-73 Tuesday for their fifth-straight win and their fourth-straight in conference play.
It was the fourth time the Bruins have beaten the Racers in the last five games the teams have played against each other.
The Bruins found themselves down by as many as eight points in the second half, but an eight-minute, 20-2 run would give the Bruins the lead for good.
“Almost every game between relatively even teams, they’re going to have their runs,” said Belmont head coach Rick Byrd. “You can’t get too carried away. We didn’t even call timeout. We just let our guys play.”
With the win Belmont is now 12-6 on the season and 4-0 in conference play. The Bruins have also won an NCAA-best 32 straight conference home games and are 73-4 in their last 77 home games.
Belmont capitalized on turnovers and fouls by Murray State in the opening minutes to take an early lead.
The Bruins attacked the paint throughout the game, taking most of their shots close to the basket. Belmont would end up with 36 points inside the paint for the game.
“They play a small lineup a lot so we would try to go after their smaller defender,” said Byrd.
A pair of threes by freshman guard Kevin McClaine and junior guard Taylor Barnette pushed the Belmont lead to double digits with less than five minutes remaining in the first half. Murray State would rally back and cut the lead down to one with two minutes to go in the half.
The Belmont lead remained at one going into halftime.
The Racers started the second half off hot and took the lead shortly after halftime. Murray State held the lead until a 3-pointer from freshman forward Dylan Windler tied the game up with 13 minutes to play. Several possessions later, a dunk by Windler would give Belmont the lead for good.
Belmont would push the lead to 13 on the strength of plays by senior guard Craig Bradshaw. A fallaway 3-point bank shot by Bradshaw put the lead at 11 and then a steal by sophomore guard Austin Luke on the Racers’ next possession would lead to a layup for the senior.
The Racers would bring the deficit down to single digits, but the Bruins held on for the decisive win.
Junior forward Evan Bradds led all scorers with 23 points and also grabbed 10 rebounds for a double-double. Sophomore forward Mack Mercer and freshman guard Kevin McClaine provided a spark off the bench and combined for 23 points.
Despite Belmont’s recent success against Murray State, Byrd still approaches each game against them the same way.
“They’re a great program. They have great teams every year,” said Byrd. “Every single game, we decide what’s going to work and we do it.”
The next game for the Bruins will be against Austin Peay on Saturday at 7 p.m. in the Curb Event Center.