Heading to the free throw line, sophomore Malik Dia had the chance to secure a Belmont win against Georgia State University on Monday with the score tied at 87.
For Dia, there wasn’t anything special about this situation.
“I’ve done this a million times,” Dia said. “I’ve prepared for this in the gym.”
Dia converted both attempts, giving Belmont the 89-87 win after a Georgia State game-winning three clanked off the rim.
Those free throws were two of Dia’s 24 points on the night.
But while Dia captivated the fans inside the Curb Event Center with dazzling dunks, there were mistakes such as defensive lapses on the court.
Overall, it was a performance symbolic of the Bruins the whole night.
Sure, the Bruins high-powered scoring offense secured them the win, but head coach Casey Alexander said he was concerned with the Bruins allowing that many points.
“If you look at the point total, it’s really good. It’s customary for us to score in the 80s” Alexander said. “Defensively, it wasn’t very good. We had a hard time guarding.”
The game was back and forth throughout with neither team seeming to gain an advantage.
A Panthers’ run that gave them momentum would be followed by a Bruins’ run that would ignite the crowd.
This type of trend can’t happen, Alexander said.
“A lot of the game on our end was be locked in and getting a little bit of a rhythm. Then we’d make a mistake or fail to communicate and get way out of rhythm,” Alexander said. “It’s too much of that back and forth. It’s expected to some degree in an opener, but we should’ve been better.”
But on the offensive side, sophomore Cade Tyson and Dia formed a formidable duo, combining for 53 points.
Alexander said that both players were able to showcase their talents.
But with Dia transferring from Vanderbilt University, Alexander said he still has to learn to integrate the Belmont playstyle while showcasing his talent.
“What you saw tonight from Malik is Malik. He’s super talented and does a lot of plays people love. I’m really glad he’s here,” Alexander said. “What he has to do is eliminate the bad plays that you don’t see as much. We just want him to play within the system, get things right and understand what makes our team good.”
Alexander said that he was also encouraged by Tyson’s scoring ability as the sophomore scored a career-high 29 points.
“I'm not saying what he did tonight was easy, but I like that he got everything just within the flow of the game. He didn’t really force anything,” Alexander said. “I think he's been carrying pretty big load on his shoulders all offseason thinking he has to be someone for our team. But tonight, he was ready when his number was called.”
Alexander and the Bruins have until Friday to iron out the kinks before traveling to Greenville, South Carolina to play a difficult opponent in Furman University.
The Paladins defeated Belmont last season on their way to a run in the NCAA Tournament.
Can the Bruins get revenge?
This article was written by Ty Wellemeyer