The men’s basketball team fell to Murray State 77-65 in the Ohio Valley Conference Tournament final in a heated, fast-paced battle on Saturday night in Evansville, Indiana.
The Racers’ superstar Ja Morant was just too much for the Bruins, scoring 36 points and shooting 9-9 from the free-throw line.
Belmont also had to play without OVC Freshman of the Year Nick Muszynski who was ruled out with an ankle injury 20 minutes prior to tip-off.
Senior Dylan Windler struggled to connect his shots in the first half, only scoring 2 points. He would go on to score 17 points and rebound 12, but it still wasn’t enough hold on to a lead.
The first half was extremely fast paced, with both teams running up and down the court trying to jump up on top first, but neither team took a lead of more than five points.
The Bruins led the Racers 31-26 at halftime, with the help of senior Kevin McClain who scored 10 points in the first half and did his best to defend Morant.
In the second half, the Bruins and Racers continued to push back and forth, but Belmont could not stop Murray State’s inside game.
Racers’ Darnell Cowart scored 11 points, 9 of which were in the second half. Morant would only hit one 3-pointer with three attempts, but the team didn’t need any help from behind the arch.
“We just couldn’t guard their big kid. We tried with a bunch of people, but got Seth into foul trouble and we had to do some things differently on offense again because of that,” said Belmont head coach Rick Byrd.
The Bruins are now in their biggest conference tournament championship drought since joining the OVC, but this isn’t the end of their postseason hopes.
Belmont is considered a favorite to be a bubble team for the NCAA Tournament and has already clinched the auto-bid for the NIT.
Selection Sunday on March 17 will keep the Bruins and their fans waiting and watching to see if they have chance to compete in the dance.
Photos by Carina Eudy.