Updated: Sep 20, 2022
In an intense battle rescued by some late-game heroics, Belmont secured a 95-89 overtime victory at Monday’s match against Furman University.
The Bruins’ second home game of the season had the Curb Event Center charged with adrenaline as they battled one of mid-major basketball’s stand-out teams.
“It was two great teams that are gonna win a lot of games,” said Belmont head coach Casey Alexander. “It had to be fun for everyone to watch and be a part of.”
The Furman Paladins, picked second to finish in the Southern Conference, challenged Belmont early, and although center Nick Muszynski scored the first basket of the game, the Bruins trailed for most of the first half.
The tides changed when guard JaCobi Wood entered the game, bringing a spark off the bench and pulling the Bruins into the lead with just under 3 minutes left in the half.
Belmont entered halftime with momentum, up 36-32.
But as the second half progressed, Furman began to come back and create some separation. At one point, they had a lead of 7 points, but the Bruins didn’t go astray.
With just under 4 minutes left, guard Grayson Murphy stole a pass and converted it for a score, cutting Furman’s lead from 6 points to 4.
Besides being a big turning point in the game, it was also a huge moment for Murphy — on that steal and score, he surpassed 1,000 career points as a Belmont Bruin.
The crowd confirmed his milestone, chanting “MVP!”
The Bruins continued to chip away at the margin after Murphy and freshman Will Richard came through with big shots, but Furman pushed back and beyond, ahead by 3 points with 13 seconds remaining in the game.
Alexander drew up one final play for the Bruins, a dribble handoff that would give guard Luke Smith a chance to tie the game with a 3-pointer.
The play nearly manifested, but Smith was fouled in the act of shooting from behind the arc and missed out on the big bucket. With Belmont still down by 3, the graduate guard walked up to the free-throw line, facing immense pressure.
Smith shook it all off and calmly knocked down all three free throws, tying the game.
Despite scoring 23 points on the night, Furman guard Mike Bothwell was unsuccessful on a last-second shot attempt, so the match-up moved to an extra period.
Heading into overtime, Alexander challenged his players, telling them somebody would need to step up and make plays if they wanted to win.
“That’s the one thing we talked about in the huddle before overtime,” Alexander said. “It was going to be that kind of game, it was going to be performance-driven, it was going to be who can step up and make the plays.”
Smith accepted the challenge.
He came out on fire, opening the overtime period by sinking a 3-pointer. After that, the Bruins never trailed again.
Smith went on to score five more points in the extra minutes of action, including two final free throws that put the game out of reach for the Paladins.
Overall, Smith added 20 points to the scoreboard, 14 of which came in the last 2 minutes of regulation and overtime.
To complement Smith’s heroic performance, the Bruins had great production across the board.
Murphy totaled 17 points and tied his career high in steals with seven.
Muszynski had a double-double with 17 points and 12 rebounds.
Guard Ben Sheppard pitched in 10 points on what turned out to be an off shooting night.
And Wood and Richard both impacted the game heavily, each contributing 13 points off the bench.
After the highly competitive and eventful contest, the Bruins will need some time to rest and recover.
“I’ll tell you what, that was one heck of a game. I’m totally exhausted,” Alexander said after the game. “I can’t imagine when the adrenaline leaves, what everybody’s gonna feel like.”
Belmont will return to action on Friday at Kennesaw State before preparing for a highly anticipated matchup against Louisiana State University on Nov. 22.
PHOTO: No. 2 Grayson Murphy in the game against Furman that got him his 1,000th career point, Nov. 15. Belmont Vision / Jessica Mattsson.
This article was written by Landen Secrest.