NASHVILLE, Tenn. - - Behind strong defense and 14 three-point field goals, Belmont men's basketball defeated Troy, 78-55, Thursday night to extend its home court win streak to 21 games.
In a game that featured two of the nation's top three-point shooting and overall scoring teams, both Belmont and Troy labored to find an offensive rhythm early.
Five quick points from sophomore J.J. Mann (Smyrna, Ga.) pushed the Bruins out to a 12-5 lead five and a half minutes in.
After the Trojans answered with a 9-0 run, Belmont received a putback basket from senior Mick Hedgepeth (Crossville, Ala.) and a three-pointer from redshirt junior Brandon Baker (Milford, Ohio) to take a 26-19 edge with 5:50 left in the first half.
But as the Bruins appeared poised to stretch the lead, missed shots and turnovers against the Troy halfcourt zone defense kept the margin to single figures.
A Will Weathers jumpshot got Troy within 34-27 at halftime.
Belmont shot 41 percent (13-for-32) in the first half - including 6-for-13 from three-point distance. The Bruins did limit Troy to 36 percent shooting while forcing nine turnovers in the opening 20 minutes.
The Bruins asserted themselves right away in the second half. Junior Ian Clark (Memphis, Tenn.), senior Scott Saunders (New Orleans, La.) and junior Kerron Johnson (Huntsville, Ala.) scored in successive possessions to give Belmont a 41-30 lead with 18:54 left.
After Saunders tacked on a tip-in basket, Troy inched within 46-38 on a Ray Chambers jumpshot.
But from there, Belmont's active, unified halfcourt defense intensified, and offensive efficiency elevated in kind.
Hot shooting from senior Drew Hanlen (St. Louis, Mo.) and strong interior play from Hedgepeth highlighted a 16-4 Belmont run to increase the lead to 62-42 with 7:12 remaining.
Belmont used tough rebounding and timely passing to secure the victory.
All told, Belmont shot 46 percent (30-for-66) from the field - including 14-for-30 from three-point distance. Belmont outrebounded Troy 28-14 in the second half, and 46-34 for the game.
Belmont limited Troy - the nation's leading three-point shooting team - to just 3-for-16 from behind the arc.
The Bruins handed out 21 assists on 30 made field goals.
Hanlen led three Bruins in double figures with 15 points. Clark and Mann each scored 14 points. Saunders had a season-high 10 rebounds.
Weathers led Troy (4-5) with 18 points.
The Bruins extend their home court win streak to 21 games - tied with North Carolina for the seventh-longest streak in the nation.
Belmont (7-3, 2-0 Atlantic Sun) returns to action Saturday, Dec. 17 at Miami (OH). Tip-off is set for 3:30 p.m. CT. The live play-by-play of Voice of the Bruins Kevin Ingram can be heard on the Bruin Sports Network.
NOTE: Congratulations to Ian Clark, who with a three-pointer at the 15:25 mark of the second half, became just the 10th Bruin of the NCAA era to score 1,000 career points. Clark, who reached the milestone in his 76th career game, is the second-fastest to 1,000 points in the NCAA era. Wes Burtner reached 1,000 career points in his 65th career game.