NASHVILLE, Tenn. - - Behind 21 points from junior Kerron Johnson (Huntsville, Ala.) and a career-high 18 points from sophomore Blake Jenkins (Knoxville, Tenn.), Belmont men's basketball defeated Jacksonville, 85-71, Saturday night.
Though the Bruins had claimed four consecutive victories over Jacksonville entering the contest, a hard-fought, physical game was expected.
Four points from Jenkins and three points from senior Scott Saunders (New Orleans, La.) helped Belmont to an 8-5 lead five minutes in.
But two free throws from Tevin Galvin and a reverse layin from Delwan Graham put Jacksonville ahead.
Belmont was quite efficient offensively, with scores coming in the halfcourt and transition. However, after solid initial Bruin defense, Jacksonville kept possessions alive via its strength - offensive rebounding.
After Russell Powell tied the game at 18, Jenkins, junior Ian Clark (Memphis, Tenn.) and senior Mick Hedgepeth (Crossville, Ala.) each scored during a 7-0 run to give the Bruins a 25-18 lead with 8:13 left in the half.
The lead could have been more, as Jacksonville fouls accumulated such that Belmont was in the bonus most of the first half. But the Bruins uncharacteristically missed six free throws in the first half.
A Johnson driving layin put Belmont ahead 33-26 with 5:06 in the half, before Aloys Cabell capped a 9-2 Dolphin run with a three-pointer to tie the score at 35.
A Powell short jumper provided the eighth tie of the first half, 39-39 at halftime.
Belmont shot 56 percent (14-for-25) from the field and committed just three turnovers in the first half. But despite forcing nine Dolphin turnovers, Belmont surrendered 11 offensive rebounds in the opening 20 minutes.
The Bruins got five quick points from Jenkins out of the locker room to claim the lead. After two Cabell free throws got the Dolphins within 47-45 with 16:35 left, junior Adam Barnes (Clarksville, Tenn.) scored inside and Clark added five points as Belmont took a nine point lead with 14:39 left.
But just as the Bruins appeared poised to break free, Jacksonville answered back. Chris Davis made a baseline three-pointer to cap an 11-2 Dolphin run, tying the score at 58 with 9:54 left.
After Clark made one free throw, Graham sank a short jumper to give Jacksonville a 60-59 edge - its first lead since 9-8.
That's when the Bruins elevated their play on both ends.
Five quick points from Johnson put Belmont back ahead to stay. But following Graham's basket, Belmont held Jacksonville scoreless for a four-minute stretch which enabled the Bruins to pull away.
Hanlen and Clark added three-pointers, and Jenkins capped the 13-0 run with a baseline basket to give Belmont a 72-60 lead with 4:45 left.
Jacksonville would get no closer than nine points the rest of the way.
All told, Belmont shot 56 percent (28-for-50) from the field - including 6-for-12 from three-point distance. The Bruins also shot 23-for-33 from the free throw line, committed just seven turnovers, and held Jacksonville to one offensive rebound in the second half.
Aside from Johnson's 21 points and Jenkins' career-high 18, Clark scored 13 points, and Hanlen added 10 points and six rebounds.
Cabell led Jacksonville (4-17, 2-8 Atlantic Sun) with 22 points.
Belmont (15-7, 8-2 Atlantic Sun) returns to action Monday, Jan. 30 against North Florida. Tip-off is set for 7 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. Live video streaming will be available via ASun.TV.