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Second half run puts Bruins past Jackrabbits

All the Belmont men’s basketball team needed was a three to get started.

The second half shot from Kerron Johnson sparked the Bruins on an 18-5 run that gave them to a 76-49 win against the South Dakota State Jackrabbits Wednesday night.

“That’s about as much as I can remember, especially against a good team,” coach Rick Byrd said. “I’d like to think we played more people, we played a little bit more up tempo, and I’d like to think they got a little tired.”

After the Johnson three, the Bruins made three more long distance shots in a row, along with transition baskets from Ian Clark and Trevor Noack, who had a second straight career-best game with 24 points.

Noack, who scored all of his points before getting into foul trouble late in the game, said those types of nights for Belmont forwards gives their guards the chance to perform without pressure.

“Any one of us gets going, gets a couple points here and there, it leaves some pressure of of them and opens it up for them,” Noack said. They start finding open shots, just like what happened in this game.”

After 43 points in the past two games, the senior forward has finally come into his own in the post and perimeter, Byrd said.

“He’s been maybe our most consistent player,” Byrd said. “He couldn’t play the five spot, because we had two good ones in there. Now that we needed one, he’s just stepped in and played with confidence.”

In addition to Noack, Clark and Johnson had 15 and 13 points on the night respectively.

Each of the three scored at least as many as South Dakota State guard Nate Wolters, who is touted by many as a player with NBA potential. The guard drove his way to 13 points, eight assists and three rebounds in a game that brought a handful of professional scouts to the Curb Event Center.

Early in the game, the Bruins and Jackrabbits went back and forth in a first half dominated by defense and post play. Belmont failed to make a 3-pointer in the half and scored 18 of their 26 points in the paint. Noack led all scorers with 12 points, coming off a 19 point game at Kansas last week. Wolters scored six early for the defending Summit League champion as both teams exchanged leads throughout the half.

The Bruins shot 68 percent from the field and made all seven threes in the second half. After the 18-5 Belmont run, the team cruised to a victory with 50 second-half points.

With two games left until their conference opener, the senior said the Bruins still have more to do to reach their full potential.

“We’ve still got a lot of things to work on, but that run in the second half showed just how good we can be, both defensively and offensively,” he said.

Byrd said with wins over teams like South Dakota State, Middle Tennessee and Stanford, he is optimistic the team’s non-conference play can transition into Ohio Valley Conference play in the new year.

“I’m a big believer in the tougher schedule you play, the better it makes you,” he said. “But conference play is often more intense. We’ll just have to see [how important it is].

The Bruins moved to 8-3 with the win, and will next travel to the UCF Holiday Classic on Dec. 28 for their next game.

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