The Belmont men’s basketball team won its third straight against Kennesaw State University 64-53 on Wednesday night.
Despite this being the first game all season where less than three players scored in double figures, junior Nick Muszynski’s unstoppable performance in the paint led the Bruins to their third consecutive win.
The Bruins seemed to miss junior Grayson Murphy who was out for the second straight game with an apparent foot injury. His offensive contributions and electrifying energy on the floor could be one of the reasons the bruins underperformed against the Owls.
Although Coach Casey Alexander was happy to get the win, he knows his team could do so much better. And without Murphy, they will have to find better ways to win ahead of conference play.
“Early in the season you try to find ways to win even if it’s ugly,” said Alexander. “We just have to be more solid and consistent on both ends of the floor.”
Muszynski totaled 25 points and six rebounds, in arguably his best performance of the season. He seemed to have cleaned up his jump hook after struggling under the basket the past couple of games, playing with more accuracy and confidence alike.
Junior Luke Smith, fresh off both an Ohio Valley Conference player and newcomer of the week award, once again showed off his range. With four threes and 14 points, he continued his perfect record in double-figure scoring in his first season at Belmont.
Both the Bruins and Owls struggled to find their groove ahead of the first media timeout. However after speaking with head coach Casey Alexander, the Bruins found their stride. A 7-0 run established Belmont’s offensive dominance for most of the first half, creating a 14-point lead ahead of the second.
The Owls seemed to find their own offensive momentum following the Bruins run, putting up two straight baskets to make it a one possession game.
From there, the Bruins collectively outperformed the Owls on the offensive and defensive fronts. Forcing turnovers that turned into baskets, including three straight from Muszynski in the paint with the score being 18-9.
Their momentum continued fueled by smart basketball. The Bruins were able to find a way to break down the Owls defense with every possession – resulting in a 14-2 run in total ahead of the third media timeout, making the score 23-9.
A few offensive turnovers, unnecessary fouls and a blocked layup on Ben Shepherd seemed to dial down Belmont’s performance, allowing the Owls to go on a 6-0 run going into the final timeout of the half.
Coming out of the timeout, the Bruins mirrored the owls with an 8-0 run of their own to end the half, until Owl junior Spencer Rodgers hits a three at the buzzer. The score ahead of the second half being 34-20 Belmont.
Muszynski finished the half with 12 points and three rebounds as the game’s leading scorer. Collectively, the Bruins shot 48 percent from the field and 38 percent from three.
Muszynksi continued to dominate the paint to open the final half, establishing said dominance with a one handed dunk assisted by sophomore Ben shepherd. Among other baskets, Muszunski’s dunk set the tone for the remainder of the game.
Without much trouble, the Bruins continued to hold Kennesaw State to a comfortable deficit for the entire half. Where there were offensive dry spells, the bruins compensated on the other end of the floor with an outstanding defensive performance. Including a total of 39 rebounds and forced 14 turnovers on the night that led to 14 points off turnovers.
As a team, the Bruins went 25-52 at 48 percent from the field and 38 percent from behind the arc.
The Bruins will have a chance to go for four straight wins and a 2-0 conference record when they take on Tennessee State University on Dec. 18. Tip off is slated for 6 p.m.
This article written by Julieann Challacombe.