NASHVILLE, Tenn. - - On an unforgettable night, Belmont men's basketball defeated Ohio, 81-62, Saturday night in the Ramada Worldwide BracketBusters.
An electric, overflow crowd in front of an ESPN2 national television audience was treated to one of Belmont's most complete games in recent memory, against the Sweet 16 Bobcats from a year ago.
After falling behind by three points early, junior J.J. Mann (Smyrna, Ga.) capped an 11-1 Belmont run with a wing three-pointer to give the Bruins a 13-6 lead.
Consecutive three-pointers by freshman Craig Bradshaw (Franklin, Tenn.) and senior Trevor Noack (Keller, Texas) pushed the lead to 21-10 with 8:53 left in the half.
Belmont rode active, unified team defense and balanced offense to maintain a double figure lead, before Belmont had a scare when leading scorer and senior All-America candidate Ian Clark (Memphis, Tenn.) was shaken up with a leg injury late in the first half. However, Clark would return in the second half.
A Brandon Baker (Milford, Ohio) basket and a buzzer-beating three-pointer from Mann sent Belmont to halftime with a 41-24 lead.
Belmont shot 52 percent in the first half and forced eight Bobcat turnovers.
Ohio closed to 46-36 on one D.J. Cooper free throw, before Mann hit another three-pointer and junior Blake Jenkins (Knoxville, Tenn.) added a layin.
With senior point guard Kerron Johnson (Huntsville, Ala.) controlling play on both ends, Belmont remained aggressive. A spinning layin by Mann sent the crowd into a frenzy and made the score 61-41 with 9:40 left.
A Clark three-pointer provided the largest margin, 71-48, with 7:01 left.
With two free throws with 58 seconds left, Clark passed Wes Burtner to become Belmont's NCAA era career scoring leader. Clark now has 1,835 career points.
For the game, Belmont shot 52 percent from the field - including 8-for-22 from three-point distance.
Clark led four Bruins in double figures with 18 points and six rebounds. Mann and Noack each had 17, while Johnson added 16 points and five assists.
Reggie Keely led Ohio (20-7) with 12 points. The Bobcats had won 12 of their last 13 games entering play.
Belmont also limited NCAA assist leader Cooper to six points and three assists - both marks one off season lows.
Belmont (22-6) returns to action Wednesday, Feb. 27 against SIU Edwardsville. 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 and 104.5 The Zone. Live video streaming will be available via the OVC Digital Network. In-game updates will be provided via Twitter @BelmontMBB.
NOTES: The 4,813 announced crowd marks the largest non-sellout in Curb Event Center history ... Belmont welcomed guests from the cast of the hit series, 'Nashville' and tennis professional Brian Baker ... Belmont scored 36 points in the paint and 15 points off turnovers ... Belmont has now won 18 consecutive home games and 39 of its last 40 at the Curb Event Center.