NASHVILLE, Tenn. - - Belmont University men's basketball delivered arguably its best defensive game of the season in defeating Tennessee Tech, 71-53, Saturday afternoon.
The Bruins, who showcased their offensive prowess in a 103-point performance vs. Jacksonville State Thursday, were efficient and unified in all phases.
Two early three-pointers from sophomore Taylor Barnette (Lexington, Ky.) gave Belmont a 9-7 lead three minutes in.
And despite early foul trouble for Golden Eagle center Charles Jackson, the visitors rode the assertive play of Torrance Rowe and Javon McKay to seize a 22-18 lead midway through the first half.
The end to end action would slow somewhat, but a Barnette steal and layin from junior Craig Bradshaw (Ridgetop, Tenn.) gave the Bruins a 25-24 advantage.
The Bruins would hold Tennessee Tech without a field goal for nearly eight minutes late in the first half, and when sophomore Evan Bradds (Jamestown, Ohio) scored along the baseline to cap a 9-0 run, Belmont led 34-25 with 2:40 left in the half.
Following three Golden Eagle points, Barnette would beat the shot clock with a dramatic, 35-foot three-pointer to push the Bruin lead back to nine with 44 seconds left in the half.
Belmont led 37-30 at halftime.
Belmont shot 40 percent (12-for-30) from the field in the opening 20 minutes - including 7-for-17 from three-point distance. The Bruins outrebounded Tennessee Tech, 22-16, in the first half, and forced eight Golden Eagle turnovers.
The Bruins would score on their first five possessions of the second half, but Rowe and McKay kept Tennessee Tech within range.
But once again Belmont clamped down defensively, holding the visitors scoreless for nearly six minutes.
A Bradshaw three-pointer and a gorgeous fast break layin from Barnette extended the Bruin lead to 55-41 with 10:09 remaining.
Bradshaw drained consecutive three-pointers to push the advantage to 63-45 with 6:31 remaining.
From there, more strong interior defense from freshman Amanze Egekeze (Lake in the Hills, Ill.) and efficient play from senior Reece Chamberlain (Goodlettsville, Tenn.) and Bradds helped secure the victory.
All told, Belmont shot 50 percent (27-for-54) from the field - including 63 percent in the second half.
The Bruins limited Tennessee Tech to 36 percent shooting and forced 17 Golden Eagle turnovers. Belmont held the formidable frontcourt duo of Charles Jackson and Dwan Caldwell to a combined eight points for the game on 4-for-15 shooting.
Barnette led three Bruins in double figures with 21 points and four steals. Bradds added 18 points and five rebounds, while Bradshaw had 16 points, five rebounds, and three steals.
McKay led Tennessee Tech (10-13, 2-8 OVC) with 16 points.
Belmont (15-7, 7-2 OVC) returns to game action Thursday, Feb. 5 at Eastern Kentucky. Tip-off is set for 9 p.m. ET/8 p.m. CT.
The game will be broadcast on ESPNU and the WatchESPN app. The live play-by-play can be heard on the Bruin Sports Network and 104.5 The Zone. In-game updates will be available on Twitter @BelmontMBB.
NOTES: With his 8-for-9 shooting day, Bradds extends his NCAA field goal percentage lead (.698) ... He is shooting 60-for-77 in OVC play ... The 53 points allowed is a season-best defensively for the Bruins; Belmont held Tennessee State to 55 points Jan. 25 ... Freshman Burton Sampson scored five points for a third straight game ... Belmont was +8 on second chance points, +6 on points in the paint and +4 in rebounding.