Rick Byrd Wins No. 500 at Belmont; Bruins Defeat Stetson
DeLAND, Fla. - - Belmont head coach Rick Byrd claimed his 500th career victory at Belmont Wednesday night as the Bruins defeated Stetson, 70-53.
The Bruins picked right up where they left off from a hot-shooting second half at Florida Gulf Coast, as sophomore Ian Clark (Memphis, Tenn.) buried a deep three-pointer over the Hatters' 3-2 halfcourt zone to open the scoring.
Following two straight layins from junior Mick Hedgepeth (Crossville, Ala.), Stetson claimed an 11-9 lead on a wing three-pointer from Corey Walden.
But the Hatters' lone lead of the game would be short-lived, as Clark answered back with a three-pointer of his own 10 seconds later to put the Bruins back on top.
After a baseline three-pointer from freshman J.J. Mann (Smyrna, Ga.), fellow freshman Blake Jenkins (Knoxville, Tenn.) capped a 10-0 Bruin run with a layin to make the score 19-11 with 10:49 left in the half.
Senior Jordan Campbell (Indianapolis, Ind.) added a wing three-pointer to increase the lead to 11, 24-13, with 8:44 left in the half.
The Bruins used solid halfcourt defense and patience on offense to maintain a nice working margin.
The lone downside of the opening 20 minutes was that junior Drew Hanlen (St. Louis, Mo.) picked up two personal fouls in the final 38 seconds of the half - the final coming in a collison with Joel Naburgs for a loose ball right before the first half buzzer - giving the point guard four personal fouls at halftime.
Belmont led 38-27 at the break.
The Bruins shot 50 percent from the field in the first half while holding the Hatters to 32 percent shooting. Belmont forced 10 first half turnovers.
Stetson opened the second half strong, using physical, offensive rebounding effort to inch back into the game. Steve Forbes scoring the first five points of the second half as the Hatters got within 38-32 with 18:44 left.
But Campbell would respond in kind with a three-pointer over the Hatter zone to increase the lead back to nine.
Two straight hustle layins from Mann and a lob basket from Jenkins stretched the lead to 47-34 with 15:13 remaining.
With sophomore Kerron Johnson (Huntsville, Ala.) and Clark sharing point guard duties as Hanlen nursed his fouls, Belmont continued to use its strong halfcourt defense to stay in front.
Though the Hatters would earn their way into the bonus with 11:57 left in regulation, Belmont spread out its fouls among its 12 man active roster.
A steal and coast-to-coast layin by Clark made the score 56-43 with 11:47 left.
Walden and Ridge Graham kept Hatter hopes alive, but Stetson never got closer than nine the rest of the way.
Two straight baskets from junior Scott Saunders (New Orleans, La.) and three more points from an energized Jenkins pushed the lead to 67-49 with 5:57 left.
Belmont proceeded to play more solid defense and - despite five turnovers in the final five minutes - the Bruins exhibited enough poise and patience to secure the victory.
All told, Belmont shot 54 percent (27-for-50) from the field - including 8-for-20 from three-point distance. The Bruins held the Hatters to 39 percent shooting while forcing 21 turnovers.
Mann led Belmont with 12 points, while Clark added 10. Jenkins tied his career-high with nine points. Campbell had nine points and six rebounds.
Walden led Stetson (4-10, 2-2 Atlantic Sun) with 14 points.
Byrd joins Syracuse's Jim Boeheim (844), Duke's Mike Krzyzewski (809), Connecticut's Jim Calhoun (586), and Sacred Heart's Dave Bike (500) as the only active head coaches in NCAA Division I college basketball with 500 or more victories at their current school.
Byrd ranks 11th among all active head coaches with 592 career victories, which includes time at Maryville and Lincoln Memorial.
Belmont (12-3, 4-0 Atlantic Sun) returns to action Saturday, Jan. 8 at home against North Florida. Tip-off is set for 4:15pm CT from the Curb Event Center.
The live play-by-play of Voice of the Bruins Kevin Ingram can be heard on the Bruin Sports Network. Video streaming will be provided via ASun.TV.