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Men’s basketball wins home opener against Samford 95-63

Belmont picked up its first win of the season in head coach Casey Alexander’s first home game on Monday night with a career defining game for sophomore Adam Kunkel.

Kunkel dropped a career high at 28 points, helping the Bruins in their 95-63 win against Samford University.

The Bruins came out of the gates hot as Kunkel dropped 8 in the first four minutes of the game and ended the half hitting six 3-pointers and an astounding 22 points.

“It feels great coming off my career high last game and feels great to one-up that and get a little bit more,” said Kunkel.

The Bruins’ defense and bench stepped up to secure the win after a tough loss to Illinois State University in the season opener.

Freshman Ben Sheppard going up for a layup.

The Bruins offense was extremely efficient throughout the whole game, which took pressure off of players like sophomores Nick Muszynksi and Grayson Murphy. Murphy almost clinched a double-double with eight rebounds and nine assists, while only scoring three points.

Murphy also picked up five steals and showcased his speed and ball control, though he only scored on a half-ending buzzer beater.

“He’s the guy that makes us go,” said head coach Casey Alexander. “I’ll take that guy on the floor on my team any time.”

Head coach Casey Alexander with team at a timeout

Early in the first half, Muszynski was heavily guarded, getting triple teamed at some points. The sophomore center continued to drive to the basket and do what he does best — score in the paint. He scored 15 points and blocked four shots by the end of the game as the Bulldogs began laying off Muszynski to put pressure on Murphy and Kunkel.

Graduate transfer Tyler Scanlon had a huge game, scoring 14 points and rebounding five. Scanlon only scored six points against Illinois State but showed up in the second half against Samford, scoring nine points in the second half. Scanlon brings more size to a starting lineup that lacks height.

“His strengths are all on the offensive end; he’s not going to do things that wow you, he’s a really fundamental player,” said Alexander. “He plays with a poise that’s important and that’s what we did tonight.”

Samford struggled offensively in the first half, only scoring 30 points, shooting 38 percent from the field and going 0-4 from behind the arc. Bulldogs Jalen Dupree and Robert Allen scored in double digits by the end of the game with 15 points and 17 points respectively, but not much changed in the second half as Samford only scored 33 points and hit two of the team’s only 3-pointers.

Sophomore Grayson Murphy

Along with the scoring from experienced players, the Bruins got some help off the bench from players who haven’t seen a whole lot of time on the court.

Sophomore Tate Pierson scored eight points, six of which came from behind the arc after playing 12 minutes off the bench. Redshirt freshman Mitch Listau picked up his first career points as he went 2-2 at the 3-point line with little over 11 minutes played.

Freshman Ben Sheppard showed off his speed and toughness in front of the home crowd on Monday as he picked up his first career points with six points. The Atlanta native showed great ball handling and physicality as he drove to the rim and took a few hard hits to floor.

“I think he played with confidence tonight, he was a little jittery at Illinois State and tonight he played like he belonged,” said Alexander. “Ben is ready to play, I mean, he can play as many minutes as we can give him and I think he would perform.”

The Bruins finished the game having shot 50 percent from the field and 42 percent from behind the arc.

Belmont’s record now stands at 1-1 and will head to Boston College on Saturday in its first game of the Gotham Classic. The Eagles are 2-0 after beating Wake Forest University and the University of Southern Florida in close games.

“Boston College is in a better place then they have been in a long time and it’ll be a real challenge,” said Alexander.

Tip-off is set for 1 p.m. on Saturday.

Photos by Colby Crosby and Bronte Lebo. Video produced by Caitlin Alexander.

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