ATHENS, Ga. - - Behind 21 points and nine rebounds from sophomore Dylan Windler (Indianapolis, Ind.), Belmont University men's basketball defeated Georgia, 78-69, Wednesday night in the first round of the 2017 Postseason NIT.
It was double redemption for Belmont - for its heartbreaking setback to Jacksonville State in the OVC Tournament and for a 93-84 loss at Georgia nearly one year to the day in the 2016 Postseason NIT.
Despite being 12 days separated from game action, the Bruins were sharp and purposeful from the opening tip.
In the opening six minutes the host Bulldogs were held to two putback baskets before a floater from William Jackson II.
After Terry Crump tied the game at 16, Belmont engaged in some electrifying, end-to-end action.
3-pointers from Egekeze and junior Austin Luke (Rowlett, Texas) - followed by a dazzling behind-the-back Luke assist to senior Evan Bradds (Jamestown, Ohio) for an emphatic slam - gave Belmont a 21-17 lead at the 9:09 mark.
Windler capped the 10-2 run to give the Bruins a nine point lead.
Belmont worked through some first half foul trouble, as a Crump 3-pointer tied the score at 28 with 2:37 left in the first half.
Two more Barnette 3-pointers helped Belmont take a 37-34 lead at halftime.
Belmont shot 47 percent (14-for-30) from the field in the opening 20 minutes - including 7-for-18 from 3-point distance.
The second half began much like a January road victory at Eastern Illinois, with Belmont clicking on all cylinders.
With the Bruins spacing the floor and Bradds playing a quasi point forward, Belmont made its first six 3-pointers of the second half.
Two from Egekeze and one from junior Burton Sampson (Knoxville, Tenn.) were sandwiched around three triples from Windler as Belmont built a 57-45 lead with 13:19 left.
A Windler slam, and layins from Bradds and Luke made the score 63-50 with 9:49 remaining.
Meanwhile, the Bruin defense was unified, with All-SEC guard J.J. Frazier drawing the lion's share of attention.
Frazier, who averaged nearly 30 points per game down the stretch of SEC play, showcased his remarkable quickness, toughness and scoring ability, getting the Bulldogs within 68-60 with 5:55 left.
But baskets from Bradds and Windler pushed the Belmont lead back to 12.
Belmont went 6-for-8 from the free throw line in the final 2:14 to secure the victory.
Windler led four Bruins in double figures with 21 points. Bradds and Barnette each scored 15. Egekeze had 14.
Frazier led Georgia (19-15) with 29 points.
Belmont (23-6) advances to the second round of the Postseason NIT at Georgia Tech Sunday, March 19. Tip-off is set for Noon ET/11 a.m. CT from McCamish Pavilion. The game will be broadcast on ESPN and the WatchESPN app. The live play-by-play of Voice of the Bruins Kevin Ingram can be heard on the Bruin Sports Network. In-game updates will be available via Twitter @BelmontMBB.
NOTES: The win marks Belmont's third victory over a Southeastern Conference team (at Missouri 12/30/03, at Alabama 11/19/07) ... The win marks Belmont's third victory in the Postseason NIT (at Green Bay 3/18/14, vs. Robert Morris 3/21/14) ... Belmont's 14 3-point field goals were most in a game since making 15 vs. Morehead State (2/18/17) ... With 15 points, Bradds becomes the second member of Belmont's 1900-point club in the NCAA Division I era ... Bradds is nine points shy of Ian Clark ('13) for the program career scoring mark ... Bradds has 1,911 career points ... Luke, second nationally in assists per game, tallied his 12th game of 8+ assists this season ... Windler tallied his third career 20-point scoring game ... Belmont outrebounded Georgia, 35-32 ... Georgia's lone lead was 4-3.