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MBB win emotional Senior Night behind 3-point barrage

The Belmont Bruins beat the Tennessee Tech Golden Eagles 95-86 in their final home game of the season Saturday behind a barrage of 3-pointers and timely steals.

The Bruins hit a season-high 15 3-pointers in an emotional final home game for seniors Craig Bradshaw and Jeff Laidig.

“Jeff and I were sitting in the room last night and talking about how this is our last one. After the season is over we’ve got a month and a half until we graduate,” said Bradshaw. “It’s tough to think about that kind of stuff. We just focus on the now.”

Belmont head coach Rick Byrd was not surprised the night was an emotional one for the passionate Bradshaw.

“I don’t think I’ve ever coached a kid with as much passion as Craig has about playing basketball and being part of a team,” said Byrd. “He loves being out there and he loves playing.”

Belmont got off to a rough start on the offensive end, missing their first six shots of the game and Tennessee Tech capitalized to take an early 11-4 lead.

A corner three by junior forward Nick Smith sparked a 10-3 run for Belmont to bring the game to a tie at 14 apiece. Smith finished with 16 points off the bench and shot four of five from 3-point range.

The tie would be short-lived as the Golden Eagles hit two 3-pointers of their own to bring the lead back up to 6.

The Belmont offense then caught fire and went on a five-minute, 24-3 run to shift the momentum of the game and jump out to a 15-point lead. All of the points scored by Belmont during the run came on 3-pointers including a go-ahead 3-pointer by sophomore guard Austin Luke.

“We don’t really go in with the mindset that we’re going to shoot a lot of threes,” said Luke. “If that is what they give us, then we’re going to shoot them. We’re a good shooting team so we know we’re going to hit shots.”

The Bruins went into halftime with a 44-32 lead.

Belmont pushed the lead as high as 17 points in the second half, but a 13-0 run by Tennessee Tech cut the lead to four with just under 11 minutes remaining.

The Bruins would respond with a 14-5 run of their own to bring the lead back up to 13 with six minutes to go in the game.

Junior forward Evan Bradds became a major factor in the second half as a big presence in the paint. Bradds scored 15 points in the second half and finished the game with a 21-point, 13-rebound double-double.

The Golden Eagles attempted to cut into the lead down the stretch, but they would get no closer than six in the final five minutes as the Bruins held on to win by 9. Belmont finished the game shooting exactly 50 percent from the field.

Belmont finished the game with a season-high 15 made 3-pointers, two shy of the school record for a single game. For their part, the Golden Eagles  hit 14 3-pointers of their own.

Despite the number of points given up, Byrd thought the defense did well against the offense of the Golden Eagles.

“I think our defense got us going into our offense,” said Byrd. “We’re getting better on the defensive end and we’re going to need to be if we’re going to win games soon in the OVC tournament.”

The Bruins had 10 steals and scored 25 points off of 13 Golden Eagle turnovers.

Belmont’s next game will be at Tennessee State on Feb. 28. If the Bruins win the game, they will be guaranteed a double-bye in the OVC tournament.

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