• Lillie Burke

MBB wins nail-biter in conference opener

Despite his team only up by one and without possession, Belmont guard Craig Bradshaw said he wasn’t too nervous in the final seconds.

“It’s hard to get the ball down the court with three seconds left and get a good shot off. When he took the first two dribbles, we had him contained and it was a really good defensive play by Reece and Jeff so we did a great job at the end.”

A steal from Bradshaw and defensive pressure from Chamberlain and Laidig held off Southeast Missouri in a 78-77 nail-biting victory on New Year’s Day.

“We coached everything that could have happened. We tried to be ready, keep it in front of us and don’t let them throw it down the floor,” said Belmont coach Rick Byrd. “For them to not even get a shot off, that was good and what we can hope for.”

Bradshaw led the Bruins with 25 points while Chamberlain nearly produced a triple-double with 10 points, nine assists and nine rebounds for the Bruins. Evan Bradds rounded out the double-digit scorers with 14 points.

While the teams traded baskets in the opening minutes, the Bruins took the lead behind a dunk from Bradshaw, which energized the home crowd.

A blind pass from Chamberlain found Taylor Barnette in the corner for the 3-pointer and the 18-14 lead.

Nino Johnson slammed a dunk and scored a tip-in to pull the Redhawks within two, 26-24. However, three consecutive treys from Bradshaw and Barnette extended Belmont’s lead 34-26.

Minutes later, the layup from Chamberlain pushed Belmont’s lead to double digits for the first time in the game with 4:30 left in the first half.

However, the Redhawks knocked down a pair of threes in the final minute to pull within the Bruins 44-41 at halftime.

The Bruins shot 58 percent from the field in the first half while they allowed the Redhawks to shoot 50 percent. Both teams combined for 14 3-pointers in the first half.

Belmont opened up the second half on an 8-3 run behind the play from Bradds.

Johnson continued to carry the Redhawks’ offense and pulled his team within two points once again, 59-57, with 11 minutes remaining.

Four consecutive 3-pointers from Nick Smith and Amanze Egekeze allowed Belmont to maintain a narrow 6-point advantage.

While Bradshaw buried a 3-pointer in an attempt to put the game away, SEMO’s Jarekious Bradley drained a jumper with 45 seconds remaining. The Redhawks maintained possession in the final seconds after the missed free throw from Chamberlain.

However Chamberlain and Jeff Laidig didn’t allow the SEMO players to cross half-court to attempt the game-winner as Belmont held on for the 78-77 win.

With the victory, Belmont snapped a two-game home losing streak in front of a home crowd of 1,600 for the conference opener.

“We’re 1-0 and we would have been 1-0 if we played perfect. So we got to be thankful for that but still strive to improve. We have some days before we play again and we need to take those days and get better,” Byrd said.

Belmont returns to action on Jan. 7 when the Bruins host SIU-Edwardsville at the Curb Event Center. Tip-off is set for 7 p.m.

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