NASHVILLE, Tenn. - - Behind strong defense, unselfish play, and 10 first half three-point field goals, Belmont men's basketball defeated Kennesaw State, 98-52, Thursday night in its Atlantic Sun Conference opener.
The Bruins, undefeated lifetime in Atlantic Sun Conference home openers, picked up where they left off during last season's regular season and tournament championship form.
Belmont held the visiting Owls scoreless for the first 4:20 of the game, and when sophomore J.J. Mann (Smyrna, Ga.) sank a baseline three-pointer, the Bruins led 11-0.
Kennesaw State's two leading scorers - Markeith Cummings and Spencer Dixon - did their best to keep the Owls within arm's reach, providing high degree of difficulty baskets against solid Bruin team defense.
But torrid shooting and strong defensive rebounding enabled the Bruins to stretch their lead. Mann and senior Drew Hanlen (St. Louis, Mo.) each made three first half treys as Belmont took a 48-31 lead to the locker room.
Belmont shot 52 percent (17-for-33) from the field in the first half - including 10-for-21 from three-point distance.
The Bruins remained focused and active in the second half, as redshirt junior Brandon Baker (Milford, Ohio) capped a 14-5 Bruin run to open the second 20 minutes, stretching the lead to 62-36 with 15:56 left.
Hanlen and fellow point guard junior Kerron Johnson (Huntsville, Ala.) orchestrated the Belmont offense to high efficiency, with high percentage shots coming in the halfcourt and transition.
Baker, in particular, was the beneficiary with baskets from all angles.
The Bruins utilized their deep bench to secure the victory.
All told, Belmont shot 54 percent (37-for-68) from the field - including 15-for-39 from three-point distance. Belmont outrebounded Kennesaw State, 43-25, and committed just four turnovers.
The Bruins also handed out 30 assists - one shy of the program record of 31 at Gardner-Webb on Jan. 9, 2003 - on 37 made field goals.
Mann paced five Bruins in double figures with 17 points. Baker tallied new career-highs with 16 points and nine rebounds. Johnson had 13 points, a career-high 10 assists and five rebounds. Senior Scott Saunders (New Orleans, La.) scored 13 points, and Hanlen added 12 points and seven assists.
Cummings led Kennesaw State (2-4, 0-1 Atlantic Sun) with 21 points.
The Bruins have won four consecutive games and 18 consecutive home games.
Belmont (4-2, 1-0 Atlantic Sun) returns to action Saturday, Dec. 3 vs. Mercer. 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. Live video streaming will be available via ASun.TV.