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Midseason report: Belmont men’s basketball on track to defend OVC championship title

As far as defending its Ohio Valley Conference championship title goes, the Belmont men’s basketball team is on track to do just that after a 14-1 start to their season.

Following their first loss of the season in early December, the Bruins haven’t looked back as they’ve propelled into a phenomenal 14-game win streak.

And their success hasn’t gone unnoticed; in recent weeks, the Bruins have received multiple top-25 Associated Press votes, directly reflecting their hard work and impressive run.

Belmont is led by their to veteran juniors Nick Muszynski and Grayson Murphy. After a turbulent off season, the existing players and wide eyes of new recruits were looking at them to guide their group to success. With their vast collection of experience, Coach Casey Alexander wasn’t worried about their ability to lead.

“Nick & Grayson have two conference championships and two NCAA tournament appearances so their demonstrated ability to win helps them lead our team on a daily basis,” said Alexander.

“Both have the respect of their teammates.”

Muszynski has been having his best season yet, leading the team in scoring with 16.1 points per game as the Bruins’ consistent and sturdy man in the post. Half way through the season, he’s recorded two double-doubles bringing his career total to 66.

He also reached a prolific milestone quite early in the season, becoming the 36th Bruin in program history to reach 1,000 points over their career. Currently at 1,200 points, he is just hundreds away from breaking Evan Bradds’ all-time record of 1,921.

Murphy continues to make his case as one of the most underrated points guards in the league as he is having the best season of his career as well. He’s putting up 10.4 points per game while leading the team in assists and rebounds.

He also holds the only spot in the country as a player with 300 rebounds, 250 assists and 100 steals in his career. For this Belmont team, he’s been the pillar of their success by doing absolutely everything he can on both ends of the floor.

The new faces of transfer Luke Smith and freshman JaCobi Wood are surely one’s to remember. In a time of uncertainty, they became exactly what Blemont needed.

“You never truly know what kind of an impact a player will have until the games begin,” said Alexander. “Each of them have had moments where they’ve led our team to victory, and each have had a consistently positive impact on our season.”

Smith has been a game-changer for Belmont’s scoring offense, especially behind the arc. To start the season, he led Belmont in scoring, and quickly made history becoming the first Bruin to put up more than 100 points in their first five games.

Wood has made his case so far as freshman of the year. Since the opening tournament, Wood has stunned fans with his composure and talent as a true freshman, and continues to make the Bruins’ future look bright.

Alongside their teammates that score in volume, players like Ben Shppard, EJ Bellinger and Evan Brauns have played their roles with conviction. Each has stepped up when the team needed them, even putting up career highs along the way.

They have been a perfect example of exactly how far the depth of their team goes, something Alexander worked hard with his team to accomplish.

“We’ve had to be intentional about developing depth during the season because we had so little time together before games started. Our players have been ready to go when their number was called,” said Alexander.

As a collective, Belmont is currently sitting at second in scoring offense and field goal percentage, as well as top five in multiple other categories.

Despite their tremendous success, Alexander strives to push his team even further moving forward, because the job isn’t done until the team is holding another championship trophy.

“We haven’t accomplished anything yet. We’re just half way through our season, so our only goal is to keep improving and keep moving toward being the best this team can be.”

This article written by Julieann Challacombe.

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