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Bruins Defeat Jacksonville

Bruins Defeat Jacksonville

Feb. 5, 2010

Box Score |  Postgame Quotes |  Photo Gallery

NASHVILLE, TENN. - - In a contest dripping with postseason intensity, Belmont men's basketball defeated Jacksonville Friday night, 73-70.

Last season, Belmont and Jacksonville played in the regular season finale to decide the Atlantic Sun Conference Regular Season Championship and an automatic berth to the Postseason NIT. The Dolphins overcame 38 points from Belmont point guard and 2009 Atlantic Sun Player of the Year Alex Renfroe to win in overtime.

And once again, the Bruins and Dolphins would provide one of the most entertaining and spirited games in recent memory at the Curb Event Center, with talent and effort on full display.

A frenetic, uptempo game developed early on, as both teams showed little shyness in attacking on offense. After sophomore Mick Hedgepeth (Crossville, Ala.) gave the Bruins an early 7-5 lead, Jacksonville went on a 9-0 run, capped by a deep three-pointer from Ben Smith.

The Bruins answered back within 18-16 on a trey from freshman Ian Clark (Memphis, Tenn.) and two free throws from sophomore Scott Saunders (New Orleans, La.).

But the Dolphins showcased their defense and transition game in building a 27-19 lead with 7:06 left in the half.

Following a timeout from Rick Byrd, the Bruins appeared to elevate their level of play and match the Dolphins' purpose and physicality.

One Lehmon Colbert free throw put the Dolphins ahead 31-24 with 4:15 left in the half. Yet behind the emotional play of freshman Kerron Johnson (Huntsville, Ala.) and more solid interior play from Hedgepeth and Saunders, the Bruins closed the half on a 10-0 run in taking a 34-31 lead to the locker room.

It was a strange half statistically, as Belmont shot just 43 percent (13-for-30) from the floor - including 2-for-12 from three-point distance - and committed 10 turnovers, yet led.

The Bruins limited Jacksonville to 38 percent shooting in the opening 20 minutes and forced 11 Dolphin turnovers.

A conventional three-point play from Hedgepeth stretched the lead to six before the Dolphins used an 8-2 run to tie the score at 39 with 15:42 left.

However, each time Jacksonville made a run, the Bruins answered back. Two buckets each from Hedgepeth and Saunders and a driving layin from junior Jon House (Guelph, Ont., Canada) gave Belmont a 50-42 edge with 11:16 remaining.

Jacksonville's strong offensive rebounding and fine individual play kept them around, as a Travis Cohn second-chance basket made the score 57-50 with 6:49 to go.

But Clark and Hanlen quickly replied with consecutive three-point field goals to give the Bruins their largest lead of the night, 12, 63-51, with 5:53 left.

Yet as long as Jacksonville has Ben Smith, it is never out of a game. The senior guard scored seven quick points in succession, and when Ayron Hardy added a steal and driving layin, the Dolphins were suddenly within three, 63-60, with 3:06 remaining.

Clark stemmed the tide with a gigantic, conventional three-point play in breaking Dolphin full court pressure to push the lead back to six.

But one Colbert free throw and two more from Smith inched the Dolphins back within 66-63 with 1:47 remaining.

In desperate need of a score, Belmont again turned to Clark, who buried a deep, straight-on three-pointer late in the shot clock to again double the lead back to six, 69-63, with 1:15 to go.

Amidst the cheers of Bruin fans after the Clark make, Jacksonville raced back downcourt and received a tough, contested basket from Tevin Galvin to get within 69-65 with 1:00 left.

The Bruins then proceeded to turn the ball over on the subsequent inbounds play, breathing even more life into the Dolphin comeback effort. But Smith missed a contested three-point field goal attempt on Jacksonville's next possession, which resulted in a long rebound and a run-out opportunity for the Bruins.

Clark missed at the rim around scrambling Jacksonville defense, but Hedgepeth was soon after fouled on a putback attempt.

He made two free throws to make the score 71-65 with 34 seconds left.

Then after another empty Dolphin trip, Johnson was fouled with 19 seconds remaining.

But after making eight of his first 11 free throw attempts in the game, Johnson surprisingly missed both free throws to keep it a two possession game.

Colbert then buried a deep wing three-pointer with nine seconds left to get Jacksonville within 71-68.

After a timeout, Belmont inbounded the ball to senior and team captain Keaton Belcher (Butler, Ky.) who, after being fouled, calmly sank two free throws with seven seconds left to give Belmont a five point lead.

Smith made a driving layin with 0.8 seconds left to provide the final margin.

All told, Belmont shot 46 percent (24-52) from field and held Jacksonville to 40 percent shooting.

Clark paced four Bruins in double figures with 16 points. Hedgepeth recorded his sixth career double-double with 13 points and 11 rebounds. Johnson and Saunders each scored 12.

Smith led Jacksonville (13-9, 9-4 Atlantic Sun) with 25 points.

The Bruins snapped Jacksonville's 10-game win streak - the fifth-longest in the nation coming in.

Belmont (14-10, 9-5 Atlantic Sun) returns to action Sunday, Feb. 7 against North Florida. Tip-off is set for 2 pm CT from the Curb Event Center.

The live play-by-play from Voice of the Bruins Kevin Ingram can be heard on the Bruin Sports Network, with video streaming via ASun.TV.