A stellar second half from freshman JaCobi Wood propelled the Belmont men’s basketball team to its 15th win 79-66 against the Eastern Illinois University Panthers on Thursday night.
Wood put up 16 of his 17 points in the second half, shooting 7-12 to give a Belmont team that was lacking momentum a push to finish with a double figure win.
Juniors Luke Smith and Nick Muszynski followed suit with double figure games of their own. Smith put up 12 going 4-9, while Muszynski put up 10 going 4-5.
The first tip favored EIU, and with the first possession the Panthers put up two on the board. Smith quickly answered for the Bruins, drawing a foul early to send him to the charity stripe.
Afterwards, the Bruins made a series of small mistakes, allowing the Panthers to advance. However, two straight baskets from Muszynski and a three from Smith put them within one possession.
As a reflection of full court pressure from both teams, each went on a scoring drought for over three minutes until EIU put up two on Belmont’s defense.
Sophomore EJ Bellinger had a quick answer to take a one-point lead. After a steal and assist by Murphy, Pierson layed it up to give Belmont a three point lead – 15-12.
After a series of back and forth baskets, the Panthers were able to lose the Bruins, taking their largest lead of the night at 24-19. However the Bruins decided they wanted in and went on a 10-0 run in two minutes to put them up 29-24.
After Panther Josiah Wallace put up a three at the Buzzer, the final score tallied to 29-27 in a defensively motivated first half. The Bruins struggled offensively shooting 35 percent from the field and just 11 percent from behind the arc.
They made up for it, however, on the other end of the floor, forcing 10 turnovers including seven steals. Smith led the Bruins with nine points going 3-6 from the field, while Murphy helped the team out with five rebounds and a steal.
After a word in the locker room with Coach Casey Alexander, the Bruins opened the half with a run, extending their lead to 36-30 early. The Panthers then went on a run of their own, taking their first lead of the half and solidifying the intensity of the matchup.
The Bruins continued to hit six of their next eight shots, but couldn’t seem to shake the Panthers’ as the score was a close 50-46 at the midway point of the half.
Coming out of a talk with Alexander, however, the Bruins went on a 11-1 run after forcing four straight turnovers for baskets on the other end of the floor. Their game changing run gave the Bruins their largest lead of the night at 56-47.
One stride of consistent momentum was all it took for the Bruins to make it look too easy for the remainder of the half. Buckets on buckets and multiple forced turnovers had the Bruins up by as much as 20 points, as they dismantled the Panthers on both ends of the floor.
As a collective, the Bruins finished shooting 51 percent from the field and 29 percent from behind the arc. On the night, the Bruins forced the Panthers to give up 20 turnovers that the Bruins used in their favor, putting up 23 points in total of their mistakes.
Next, the Bruins conclude their two-game homestand against the SIU Edwardsville Cougars, tip off is slated for 4 p.m.
This article written by Julieann Challacombe.