It’s difficult for a team to replace the production of a star player when they’re unavailable for a game.
It’s even harder when said absence happens right before tipoff.
But seconds before Belmont was set to play Valparaiso University on Saturday, sophomore leading scorer Cade Tyson faced intestinal issues.
“It was as big a surprise to me as it was to you,” head coach Casey Alexander said. “We huddled right before the jump ball, and he ran off to the trash can. We never could get him back. He didn’t have a fever, but he just didn’t feel good enough to play.’’
But despite missing their leading scorer, the Bruins were able to grind out a win against the Beacons 77-68 due to an overall team effort with four players scoring in double figures.
Sophomore guard Ja’Kobi Gillespie, senior guard Keishawn Davidson, and graduate forward Jayce Willingham provided that early spark for the Bruins, knocking down back-to-back-to-back 3-pointers.
But the standout was sophomore big Malik Dia, who electrified the crowd with rim rattling dunks and dominating the Beacons down low.
At the half, the score was 43-34 with Belmont leading.
Even if Belmont seemed to run out of steam, making sloppy plays or missing shots, Gillespie kept the offense under control, attacking the basket with crafty finishes.
“I knew I had to step up scoring the ball, kind of control the game a little bit, me and Keishawn,’’ said Gillespie. “I feel like we did a good job."
Gillespie finished with 14 points and five assists while Dia finished with his first career double-double with 18 points and 10 rebounds.
But even with the win extending the Bruins’ winning streak to four games, Alexander said that this was far from their best.
But with the circumstances, he said he’s proud of his team.
“We had some guys definitely rise to the occasion and we’re tired,’’ Alexander said. “We played a short bench. I’m proud how the guys played through fatigue. I really wasn’t pleased on either end, but we made the plays when we had to make so I’m proud of that.’’
The Bruins look to extend their winning streak when they play heated rival Lipscomb University on Wednesday.
Last year, the Bruins fell short on a buzzer beater.
The question seems to be what will happen on Wednesday?
This article was written by Ty Wellemeyer