The Belmont men’s basketball team made history after absolutely dismantling the SIU Edwardsville Cougars 114-62 on Saturday night.
In a victory accomplished by committee, the Bruins put up the most points ever in the Curb Event Center and in a conference game after dropping 114 points.
“It’s been a while since we came out of the gates like that, said coach Casey Alexander. “I was very pleased with the whole 40 minutes, it wasn’t easy but I thought we played hard the whole time.”
13 different Bruins contributed to Saturday’s tally, including five who scored in double figures. Junior Luke Smith and Sophomore Ben Shepherd matched for a game high of 18 points. Combined, they went 13-20 from the field and 6-11 from behind the arc.
Another set of juniors, Grayson Murphy and Caleb Hollander also had a fantastic night. Murphy put up 14 points and six assists while going 4-5. In Hollander’s best game since being out for an injury, he put up 12 points going 4-8 from the field and 2-5 from three.
Freshman JaCobi Wood had yet another fantastic performance off the bench, putting up 11 points going 4-7 from the field and 3-4 from three.
In recent weeks, the Bruins have been struggling from behind the arc, which can be seen in their matchup prior against Eastern Illinois. Saturday’s win reflected immense improvement in that area, something Alexander was pleased to see.
“The biggest sigh of relief for me was seeing a number of threes go down.”
After turning the ball over following the first tip, the Bruins cleaned their act up forcing multiple turnovers and going on an 11-0 run – leaving the Cougars scoreless in the first three minutes of the half.
Two minutes later, the Cougars’ progress barely moved an inch after the Bruins continued to force a fast paced and intense dynamic on the floor. Belmont propelled into another 7-0 run, giving them a 22-8 lead in less than 10 minutes.
By the midway point in the half, the Bruins had forced nine turnovers, including five steals. Air-tight defense allowed it to capitalize off the Cougars’ mistakes, as they put up 12 of their now 27 points off turnovers.
Belmont ended the half on a 29-12 run after putting on a clinic against the Cougars, resulting in a 56-22 Belmont lead at the buzzer.
Sheppard led the team with 15 points going 5-7 from the field and 3-4 from behind the arc. Smith followed close behind putting up 14 points while shooting 6-8.
Junior Grayson Murphy did his part by having a perfect half, going 3-3 to tally nine points. As a team, Belmont had one of its best first halves of the season, going 65 percent from the field and 57 percent from three.
After leading the Bruins in the first half, Sheppard opened the second with the first three points. The Cougars, however, seemed to change their mindset going into the second half, hitting three of their first three shots and setting a completely different tone.
In response, the Bruins kept their composure while matching the Cougars’ energy. Having an answer for each Cougar basket and maintaining their large lead at 70-34 four minutes in.
At the midway point of the half, the Bruins were well into a 7-0 run full of twos, threes and forced turnovers, going five for seven to extend their lead to 89-44.
Without letting up on the gas, the Bruins extended their run even further, while hitting the 100 point margin with plenty of time left – the score being 100-48.
Belmont continued to hit five of their last seven shots, adding to their final winning tally of 114-62. In arguably their best performance of the season, the Bruins shot 61 percent from the field and 55 percent from behind the arc – hitting 17 threes in total.
Next, the Bruins embark on a four-game road tour, their longest of the season. The first is at Austin Peay University on Jan. 28, and tip-off is slated for 8 p.m.
This article written by Julieann Challacombe.