JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - - Behind strong defense and a career-high 19 points from senior Drew Hanlen (St. Louis, Mo.), Belmont men's basketball defeated Jacksonville, 75-63, Wednesday night.
Following an impressive showing Monday night in victory over North Florida, the Bruins looked to keep the momentum going against the deep and athletic Dolphins.
Early on, however, the Bruins labored to find an offensive rhythm in a disjointed game, marked by physical play and fouls. Offensive rebounds and handsy defense sparked the Dolphins to a 5-0 start, but eventually the Bruins worked into the game.
Consecutive conventional three-point plays from senior Mick Hedgepeth (Crossville, Ala.) gave Belmont an 8-7 lead with 13:53 left in the half.
Two free throws from redshirt sophomore Blake Jenkins (Knoxville, Tenn.) and three free throws from Hanlen gave Belmont a 15-11 lead with 10:32 left in the half.
After a Delwan Graham layin cut the lead to two, Belmont elevated the defensive intensity, holding Jacksonville to just one made field goal the last 10:21 of the half.
Meanwhile, the Bruins used free throw shooting and a late three-pointer from Hanlen to lead 34-19 at halftime.
Belmont shot 39 percent (9-for-23) from the field in the first half - including 1-for-4 from three-point distance. But more impressively, the Bruins held Jacksonville to 6-for-29 shooting and forced 10 Dolphin turnovers.
Behind free throws from junior Kerron Johnson (Huntsville, Ala.), a driving layin from Hanlen and three Hedgepeth points, Belmont stretched the lead to 41-21 with 17:55 left.
Jacksonville stayed just on the cusp of contention behind the play of Glenn Powell and Aloys Cabell, but Hanlen answered with a three-pointer each time.
Hedgepeth and senior Scott Saunders (New Orleans, La.), as well as Johnson drives, enabled Belmont to work into the bonus midway through the second half.
Jacksonville got within 11 points, but Belmont maintained a double figure lead the entire second half.
All told, Belmont shot 43 percent (20-for-47) from the field - including 4-for-11 from three-point distance. The Bruins forced 17 turnovers.
Hanlen paced four Bruins in double figures with 19 points. Johnson scored 17 points, Hedgepeth added 13 points and seven rebounds, while Clark scored 10 points.
Cabell led Jacksonville (2-12, 0-3 Atlantic Sun) with 16 points.
The teams combined for 68 free throw attempts and 47 fouls.
Belmont (11-5, 4-0 Atlantic Sun) returns to action Friday, Jan. 6 vs. Lipscomb. Tip-off is set for 7:00 p.m. 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 and 104.5 The Zone. Live video streaming will be available via ASun.TV.
A limited number of tickets for the game remain. To purchase tickets, contact the Curb Event Center Box Office at (615) 460-BALL or click on the 'Tickets' link on belmontbruins.com.