After a 10 game win streak, the men’s basketball team has once again found itself as the one seed in the Ohio Valley Conference Tournament.
The Bruins picked up the double bye which allowed them to not play until Friday where they will face Eastern Kentucky in the semifinal.
Sophomore Grayson Murphy knows how important having that No. 1 seed is.
“Yeah it’s big because in the tournament you never know what’s going to happen,” said Murphy. “Everyone is going to each other’s best shot and we just need to stay focused and take it one game at a time.”
Though the Bruins won the OVC regular season championship three of the last four years, Belmont hasn’t won the conference tournament since 2015.
Belmont has seen a lot of improvement since the kicked off conference play in January where they suffered a devastating loss to SIU-Edwardsville in the Bruins conference home opener. They also struggled against Austin Peay and Murray State in their first meetings taking back-to-back losses.
“I think we’ve matured a lot over the games,” Murphy said. “We’ve locked in on each game and focused on what we do.”
Murphy has been the cornerstone of this team, leading it to success on both ends of the court.
His contributions did not go unseen as he was named to the All-OVC First Team and OVC Densive Player of the Year. Ian Clark was the last Bruin to do so in 2014 and 2015.
Along with Murphy, sophomores Adam Kunkel and Nick Muszynski have also performed at their best in the second half of conference play which earned them a spot on the All-OVC First Team as well.
Alexander is not new to pressure in a conference tournament as he won the Atlantic Sun Tournament with Lipscomb in 2018 and then took the Bisons on a run to the National Invitational Tournament Championship in 2019.
But the OVC Tournament will be a new experience and challenge for coach Alexander in Evansville.
“It’s gonna be different, I’ve spent the last 18 or 19 years in the A-Sun,” said Alexander. “I’m very familiar with the league, the teams and players and styles and everything else, but as this weekend is concerned it will be completely different for me.”
Eastern Kentucky has surprised a lot of people as they were picked to finish sixth in the conference and wound up finishing fourth. They beat Tennessee State 58-48 on Thursday and will now take on the Bruins who haven’t played a game since Saturday.
“We’ve been given more rest than an average week would require,” said Alexander. “Physically, we’re as close to 100 percent as we can be.”
Alexander said he knows this tournament will not be easy, as the season felt like an uphill battle at moments, but his guys are ready to win after so much hard work.
“I think they’ve stayed optimistic and kept belief even when things weren’t going our way and I think that’s the reason why we’re here.”
Photo Bronte Lebo.