MACON, Ga. - - Belmont men's basketball once again played through adversity and a stern test in defeating Jacksonville, 76-62, Wednesday in the 2012 Atlantic Sun Tournament Quarterfinal.
However, as the Bruins went through pregame warmups, junior Ian Clark (Memphis, Tenn.) complained of an abdominal strain and was assisted to the locker room area. Clark, who had started all 96 games of his stellar career entering the day, would not be able to play.
Belmont, without the perennial All-Atlantic Sun guard and Atlantic Sun Defensive Player of the Year, would turn to junior Adam Barnes (Clarksville, Tenn.) in the starting lineup.
Moreover, this was not your average conference tournament eight seed. Jacksonville entered having won four of its previous six games, led by the scoring of Aloys Cabell.
The Bruins led 18-12 early on a layin from senior Scott Saunders (New Orleans, La.) before a 7-0 run gave the Dolphins a one-point lead.
Leading 24-20, Belmont used seven free throws and a three-pointer from freshman Reece Chamberlain (Goodlettsville, Tenn.) to take a 36-22 lead with 3:59 left in the half.
After a Glenn Powell basket, Saunders answered with a conventional three-point play to increase the lead to 15 points.
But Belmont would fail to score the final 3:24 of the half, and Jacksonville closed within 39-30 at halftime.
Belmont shot 40 percent (12-for-30) from the field in the first half - including 3-for-6 from three-point distance. But the Bruins used their strong frontline to gain a 24-10 rebounding edge in the opening 20 minutes, and went 12-for-15 from the free throw line.
After Russell Powell got Jacksonville within 39-32, Saunders capped a 9-2 Bruin run with a tough finish inside off a Johnson feed to put the Bruins ahead 48-34 with 14:38 left.
The Dolphins closed within 51-44 on a Cabell three-pointer, before sophomore J.J. Mann (Smyrna, Ga.) replied with a wing three-pointer to stretch the margin back to 10 midway through the second half.
Hedgepeth would tack on an interior basket moments later.
Another interior basket from Saunders gave the Bruins an 11 point lead, but Cabell completed the rare four-point play to get the Dolphins within 62-55 with 6:02 left.
Jacksonville would get as close as seven points once more, but Johnson and Hedgepeth combined to score 12 Bruin points in the final 5:28 to secure the victory.
All told, Belmont shot 40 percent (23-for-58) from the field - including 6-for-17 from three-point distance. The Bruins outrebounded Jacksonville, 46-28, and forced 12 turnovers.
Johnson led three Bruins in double figures with 19 points, five rebounds and five assists. Saunders tallied 18 points and six rebounds, while Hedgepeth added 13 points.
Cabell led Jacksonville (8-22, 6-12 Atlantic Sun) with 17 points.
The Bruins have won 12 consecutive games, and 18 consecutive February games dating back to 2010.
Belmont (25-7, 16-2 Atlantic Sun) returns to action Friday, Mar. 2 in the Atlantic Sun Tournament Semifinal against ETSU or North Florida. Tip-off is set for 5 p.m. CT.
The live play-by-play of Voice of the Bruins Kevin Ingram can be heard on the Bruin Sports Network. The game will be broadcast live on Comcast Sports Southeast (CSS).