Updated: 4 days ago
The Bruins handed Murray State its first conference loss of the year after holding on to a gritty 71-64 win at the Curb Event Center on Thursday night.
Belmont lost to Murray State 85-75 just two weeks ago in Murray, Kentucky.
“I don’t think this is our best performance,” said head coach Casey Alexander. “It’s definitely our toughest, our grittiest performance.”
After going 0-14 from the 3-point line in the first half, the Bruins dominated the paint scoring 48 points inside the arc. Graduate transfer Tyler Scanlon helped lead the Bruins by scoring a season high 21 points, 14 of which came in 21 minutes. Sophomore Adam Kunkel added 20 points to the Bruins, 12 of which came in the second half.
Murray came into Thursday’s game 10-0 in conference but struggled early on by turning the ball over and allowing the Bruins to take advantage. The Racers turned the ball over nine times in nine minutes and ended the night with 22.
The Bruins led 18-5 with 10 minutes to go in the half but Murray State would not go down without a fight and inched its way one bucket at a time. Back-to-back blocks and a 10-2 run put Murray State within 3 points with four minutes to go in the first half.
From this point on, the Bruins and the Racers would exchange scoring runs for the rest of the game, giving the fans at the Curb a fun one to watch.
The Racers would respond to three consecutive layups from Adam Kunkel and Scanlon with back-to-back 3-pointers giving the Bruins a slim but confident 32-26 lead at the end of the first half.
In the second half, the Racers had multiple opportunities to go on deep scoring runs but the Bruins offense just would not allow. Most 5 or 6-point Murray State runs were responded with great work and scoring in the paint.
“They would make a run and we would respond, and they would make a run and we would respond and that happened several times,” said Alexander. “That’s a big growing up step for our team.”
With just under 12 minutes to go in the game, the Racers nailed a three to take a 46-45 lead and getting every Murray State fan in the arena on their feet. But Scanlon responded without any hesitation with a 3-pointer to take back the lead 48-46 giving Belmont fans a chance to go nuts.
Murray would stay close, but dug themselves too deep in the first half that it was hard to truly catch up.
“To go on the road and beat good teams, obviously you can’t turn the ball over 22 times, you can’t have some of the breakdowns that we had in opportune times,” said Racers’ head coach Matt McMahon.
The starters played a majority of the game as four of the five starters played 29 minutes or more. Though the bench production lacked when it came to points, freshman Ben Sheppard once again played with excellent athleticism and physicality. He didn’t score any points and only rebounded four but he finished the game with a plus/minus of 14.
The Bruins improved their conference record to 8-3 and will have a chance to get revenge against Austin Peay on Saturday at the Curb. The Bruins lost to Austin Peay two weeks ago 86-78 but the Governors picked up their first conference loss on Thursday to Tennessee State.
Photos by Bronte Lebo and Evan Dorian.
A correction was made to this story on Feb. 7: the Bruins’ conference record is 8-3 as opposed to 7-4, which was listed when the story was published.