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Men’s basketball releases 2018-2019 season schedule

The Belmont men’s basketball team will face a packed schedule of heavy-scoring mid-major and top conference schools, including Purdue, Western Kentucky and UCLA.

On Tuesday night, coach Rick Byrd presented the 2018-2019 schedule, which includes Illinois State, Middle Tennessee State and Murray State.

The team will also take on rival Lipscomb twice for the annual Battle of the Boulevard games. Last year Belmont lost both games to Lipscomb, and the Bisons then went on to win the Atlantic Sun Conference.

The Bruins will kick off their season on Nov. 10 at the Curb Event Center against mid-major powerhouse Illinois State. In last season’s Missouri Valley Conference finals, Illinois State lost to Loyola Chicago.

In December, Belmont will travel to Los Angeles to face UCLA. UCLA has one of the most successful programs in NCAA history, with 11 championship titles and alumni like Russell Westbrook and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.

The last time the two teams played was Belmont’s March Madness debut in 2006, when the team lost to UCLA in the first round.

Belmont will also have to battle some tough teams in its own conference, including Jacksonville State, Austin Peay and 2017-18 Ohio Valley Conference champions Murray State.

Belmont’s conference play will begin in January against Jacksonville State, who the Bruins lost to twice in the 2017-2018 regular season.

Belmont’s yearly matchup against Murray State is set for late January in Murray, Kentucky. The Racers outplayed the Bruins in the Ohio Valley Conference final, winning 68-51. Murray State sophomore Ja Morant is one of three starters returning for the Racers and averaged 12.7 points per game last season.

Only two days after the Murray State game, the Bruins will take on the Austin Peay Governors in Clarksville, Tennessee. Belmont beat Austin Peay in the OVC semifinals last season but will have to face a strong team, including reigning OVC Freshman of the Year Terry Teller, who averaged 15.1 points per game and 31.4 minutes per game last season.

Senior Dylan Windler will lead the Bruins this season as the team searches for their third OVC tournament title.

Windler led the team in points per game and rebounds per game while shooting 40 percent from the 3-point line last season. He is already an OVC Player of the Year favorite as well as one of the highest performing mid-major players in the country.

“We’ve prepared a lot better this year than we ever had before,” said Windler. “We have a lot of young guys, but I think they’ll be ready to play.”

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