Updated: Oct 3, 2022
The men’s basketball team is inching closer to the top of the Ohio Valley Conference with a 71-63 win against second place Austin Peay at the Curb Event Center on Saturday night.
Saturday’s win comes just two days after taking down an undefeated Murray State on Thursday.
The Bruins lost to both teams on the road two weeks ago in second half struggles. On Thursday and Saturday, Belmont closed out their close games consistent offense throughout the entire game and preventing the Racers and the Governors from going on deep scoring runs.
“We showed a lot of fight,” said head coach Casey Alexander. “We also made a lot of free throws down the stretch.”
Sophomore’s Grayson Murphy and Adam Kunkel led the Bruins with 12 points and 19 points respectively. The Bruins also scored 75 percent of their free throws and shot 45 percent from the field.
Belmont’s defense had a solid game but Austin Peay senior and OVC Preseason Player of the Year Terry Taylor played one of his best games all year. Taylor dropped 26 points and rebounded an insane 23, only four less than the Bruins’ team total of 27.
“It’s crazy what he can do on his own,” said Alexander.
Other than Taylor, Austin Peay didn’t show much except for a few stretches in the end of the first half and the second half.
The Bruins took control early per usual with a confident but vulnerable lead 22-17 with just about seven minutes to go in the first half. The first 15 minutes of the half were very quiet and both teams turned over the ball as well as missed open shots.
It wasn’t until there was about five minutes to go in the half that things began to heat up. Peay worked their way to tie it at 24 a piece after a few turnovers by Belmont. A Terry Taylor rebound and a bucket plus a 3-pointer with just about a minute to go tied the game at 28. But a Caleb Hollander three gave the Bruins the lead. The Bruins would take a 32-30 lead into halftime which they wouldn’t surrender for the rest of the game.
Peay would eventually get back within two in the last eight minutes but making free throws and hard work from Murphy helped secure with win.
Sophomore Caleb Hollander had a huge game with 14 points hitting 3-4 from behind the arc in 16 minutes of play. Hollander has played extremely well the past two weeks, scoring in double digits three of the last four games.
The Bruins sit at third place in the OVC standings just behind one-loss Murray State and now two-loss Austin Peay. Eastern Kentucky lost to SIU-Edwardsville on Saturday which gives Belmont some breathing room.
Getting a two-round bye for the conference tournament looked tough to get just two weeks ago, now it looks more reachable.
“We still have a lot of games to play,” said Murphy. “We just need to stay focused on game after game.”
Belmont takes on a highly competitive Tennessee State at the Curb Event Center on Thursday at 7 p.m..
Photos by Bronte Lebo.