The Bruins picked up their sixth straight win after beating Jacksonville State 101-84 in front of a packed homecoming crowd at the Curb Event Center Saturday night.
The evening began with an emotional ceremony unveiling the new “Rick Byrd Court” with Byrd, his family and former players and coaches.
Former coach Rick Byrd with his grandson
“They put the people on the floor that mattered to me,” said Byrd. “It was a wonderful ceremony it was a wonderful setup and it’s hard to express my thanks to all those people that I care about.”
Byrd gave a speech to the team prior to the game which added to the motivation along with the crowd and the atmosphere, said sophomore Adam Kunkel.
“Obviously it was nice having that game with this big of an atmosphere and just keeping Rick Byrd Court unbeatable.”
Once the festivities were over, the Bruins took the court and put on one of the best offensive performances of the year behind Kunkel’s 26 points.
Belmont’s offense was strong from the beginning to the end, never failing to put up points once the Gamecocks started to go on short scoring runs.
Sophomore Nick Muszynski dropped 18 points and 12 rebounds along with two massive blocks. Grayson Murphy proved again why he’s the most versatile player on the court scoring 12 points, five rebounds and six assists. Murphy also had no turnovers and three steals.
The Bruins started off hot per usual taking a massive 32-18 lead over Jacksonville State. A couple of 3-pointers from Murphy, Michael Benkert and Nick Hopkins gave Belmont more than enough breathing room. Hopkins played one of his best games of the year dropping 12 points and shooting 3-4 from behind the arc off the bench.
The Gamecocks were extremely physical and fast which allowed them to go on a 15-4 run with under five minutes to go in the half cutting Belmont’s lead to 41-38.
But back-to-back three’s from Tate Pierson and then a buzzer beater from Kunkel gave the Bruins a 48-38 lead halftime.
In the second half, the Gamecocks pushed a lot as De’Torrion Ware dropped 25 points and 14 rebounds in their effort.
But in the end it was no match for the Bruins excellent shooting and Kunkel’s 18 second half points. Belmont shot 56 percent from the field and 33 percent from the 3-point line.
The Bruins have four more games left in the regular season, first at Morehead State on Thursday.
The momentum is extremely important especially as the Ohio Valley Conference Tournament is only a few weeks away, said Kunkel.
“We still have a lot of tough games going into the conference tournament,” said Kunkel. “We just need to finish strong and keep the momentum going.”
Photos by Bronte Lebo and Evan Dorian.