Dylan Windler proved to the entire country on Thursday afternoon why he and Belmont deserved the at-large bid to this year’s NCAA Tournament.
Windler scored 35 points and rebounded 11 in the Bruins 79-77 loss to the University of Maryland. He is the first player to do so against a Big Ten school since Shaquille O’Neal in 1992, according to ESPN.
The game was exactly what a great basketball game should be, with drama, dunks, long-scoring runs and comebacks throughout the game.
“I’m so totally proud of this team, particularly these two seniors with the career they’ve had and for the season our team has had,” said head coach Rick Byrd.
However, the same backdoor play that gave the Bruins a win over UCLA couldn’t do the same for them against the Terrapins.
Efforts from Kevin McClain, Nick Muszynski and Seth Adelsperger also kept the Bruins in the game.
Both teams looked pretty flat in the first couple minutes of the game, with Belmont’s first three shot attempts failing to go in.
But McClain once again proved why this Belmont team is so deadly by scoring 12 points in just the first 10 minutes of the game. Three of those points came after McClain was fouled on a 3-point attempt.
However, McClain didn’t score at all in the final 10 minutes of the first half and would go on to only score nine points for the rest of the game.
Windler added to the score as well by hitting four three’s and scored 15 points in the first half alone.
Maryland was showing a whole lot of life from players like Bruno Fernando and Jalen Smith, but the Bruins’ momentum in the middle of the half gave Belmont a 40-34 lead going to halftime.
But the Terrapins were not going to go down so easily. The team’s height was one of the biggest factors in their win over the Bruins.
Fernando led the Terrapins on a 14-0 run in the first four minutes of the second half, giving them a 48-40 lead. He scored 14 points and rebounded 13.
But it was Windler who waited four years for this moment, who refused to go down without a fight.
He scored 20 points in the second half, showing off his athleticism by scoring from everywhere on the court.
Adelsperger had one of his best games all season, scoring nine points and rebounding 10. He had a dunk and a crowd-erupting alley-oop from Windler.
The Bruins took back the lead with about 10 minutes left in the game, but the overall height of the players from Maryland hurt the Bruins defensively as they just couldn’t rebound.
After Morsell made and then missed two free-throws, the Bruins only had a little over two seconds to get a shot off, and it just wasn’t enough time.
The Bruins finish the season with a record of 27-6.
This was a game that basketball fans deserved, and gave the NCAA proof that mid-majors like Belmont deserve a shot in this tournament.
Rick Byrd and the Bruins basketball program will walk away from this tournament with a historic win, pride from an unbelievable season and the national recognition they deserve.
Photos by Carina Eudy