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Bruins Defeat USC Upstate

Bruins Defeat USC Upstate

Feb. 13, 2010

Box Score

SPARTANBURG, S.C. - - This redefines team victory. After enduring an adventurous 36 hours through Mother Nature's complete winter arsenal, Belmont men's basketball dug deep and earned a 70-57 victory at USC Upstate Saturday night.

Due to the winter storm that struck the Mid South, the Bruins spent 20 straight hours on the team bus Friday into Saturday morning as Interstate 85 in Northeast Georgia was shutdown.

Arriving in Spartanburg shortly before noon eastern time, the Bruins took quick naps, ate team meal, and proceeded to deliver another strong, workmanlike road performance.

Perhaps more mentally fatigued than anything else, Belmont fell behind 6-0 and did not get on the board until a floater from freshman Ian Clark (Memphis, Tenn.) more than three minutes in.

Behind eight quick points from center Nick Schneiders - and eight Bruin turnovers in the first nine minutes - the Bruins fell behind 14-5.

But much like its previous two trips to the Hodge Center, Belmont swung momentum behind inspired team defense and rebounding.

A baseline three-pointer from freshman Kerron Johnson (Huntsville, Ala.) highlighted a 14-2 run which gave the Bruins a 19-16 lead.

The lead would grow to four, 24-20, with 4:42 left in the half on a nice transition basket from junior Jon House (Guelph, Ont., Canada) on a feed from Clark.

A driving Johnson layin would stretch the lead to eight, 36-28, before Ryan Legates scored in the final seven seconds to send Belmont to the locker room up six.

Both teams shot over 50 percent from the field in the first half, with Johnson's nine and Clark's eight pacing the Bruins. Schneiders and Mezie Uzochukwu each scored 10 first half points for USC Upstate.

After Belmont scored 19 points off of Spartan turnovers in the first half, points would prove much harder to come by for both sides in the second half.

A Pat Posey three-pointer got USC Upstate within 38-34 with 18:16 left, before sophomore Mick Hedgepeth (Crossville, Ala.) and Clark answered with baskets.

Schneiders almost single-handedly kept the Spartans within reach with efficient post scoring, before sophomore Drew Hanlen (St. Louis, Mo.) and Clark buried consecutive three-pointers to give the Bruins their largest lead, 12, 55-43, with 8:59 left.

Head coach Rick Byrd kept the Bruins fresh, rotating players in and out and getting solid production with every substitution.

But just as Belmont appeared poised to take complete control, a series of shots rimmed out and offensive rebounding effort plays would go unrewarded at the rim.

After a baseline trey from Legates got the Spartans within 57-50 with 5:31 left, House quickly struck back, finishing a Bruin press break with a strong conventional three-point play over the 7-3 Schneiders to push the lead back to ten points.

Pat Posey would again get USC Upstate within seven, 60-53, on a wing three-pointer. After an exchange of defensive stops, Clark supplied the Bruins with a vital basket, putting home his own miss and increasing the lead to 62-53 with 1:55 to go.

Clark would go 5-for-6 from the free throw line in the final 1:03 to seal the victory.

All told, Belmont shot 39 percent (25-for-63) from the field - including just 29 percent in the second half. But the Bruins also held USC Upstate to 29 percent shooting in the second half, while grabbing a season-high 22 offensive rebounds.

Clark led the Bruins with a game-high 22 points. Johnson had 11 points and five assists. House, Hedgepeth, and Hanlen each scored eight points.

Schneiders led USC Upstate (5-20, 5-11 Atlantic Sun) with 22 points on Spartan Senior Day.

Belmont (16-10, 11-5 Atlantic Sun) returns to action Thursday, Feb. 18 at Stetson. Tip-off is set for 7:15 pm CT.

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.