JACKSONVILLE, Ala. - - Belmont University men's basketball stormed back from a 15-point first half deficit but dropped a 72-70 decision at Jacksonville State Wednesday night.
But a string of costly Bruin turnovers and a pair of three-pointers from forward DJ Felder - who entered play without a single make from behind the arc all season - highlighted an 11-3 Jacksonville State run to give the hosts a 14-10 advantage.
After the Bruins got layins from Chamberlain and junior Craig Bradshaw (Ridgetop, Tenn.), Jeremy Watson capped a 6-0 Gamecock run to make the score 29-18 with 7:07 left in the first half.
As Jacksonville State showed aggressiveness, the Bruins simply could not string together scores and defensive stops. The Gamecocks managed the game well, and Belmont was in need of a spark.
Head coach Rick Byrd emptied the bench with 6:22 left in the first half, but the Gamecocks simply continued their momentum.
Felder scored back-to-back baskets to push the margin to 35-20 with 3:19 left in the first half.
Two baskets from Bradds and a teardrop from Bradshaw got the Bruins within 37-26 at halftime.
Belmont shot 44 percent (12-for-27) from the field in the opening 20 minutes. But eight first half turnovers led to 11 Gamecock points.
The Bruins came out of the locker room intent on turning things around, coming out and extending defense all 94 feet.
Belmont was rewarded as three-point plays from Bradds and Bradshaw, and a basket from sophomore Taylor Barnette (Lexington, Ky.) quickly got the Bruins within 37-34 with 17:54 remaining.
A conventional three-point play from Malcolm Drumwright and another Felder basket stemmed the tide.
Six straight points from a determined Bradds gave Belmont its first lead since the early going, 47-46, with 12:30 left.
The lead would seesaw back and forth, with both teams exerting tremendous energy and fouls accumulating.
After five free throws, Watson pushed the Jacksonville State lead back to 57-51 with 8:56 remaining.
But the Bruins responded; a deep three-pointer from sophomore Nick Smith (Bentonville, Ark.) and another Bradshaw drive gave Belmont a 60-59 edge with 7:03 to go.
Once again Belmont momentum would be halted as two costly misses on the front end of one-and-one free throws stung.
After freshman Amanze Egekeze (Lake in the Hils, Ill.) tied the score at 64 with 4:37 left, Hunter scored on the offensive glass to put the Gamecocks back ahead.
Bradshaw would again equalize the score on a driving basket, but Jacksonville State broke Bruin pressure and found Hunter for an easy two to make the score 68-66 with 1:38 left.
Chamberlain would be fouled with 1:18 to go, but he made one of two free throws tries to cut the deficit in half.
From there, Rackley would find Felder to push the Gamecocks back up by three.
After an exchange of free throws, Bradds scored on a tough baseline reverse layin with 16 seconds left to get the Bruins within 71-70.
Belmont would press and go for a steal, ultimately fouling Hunter with nine seconds remaining.
The forward would make one free throw to bump the margin to two points.
The Bruins then turned to Bradshaw, who drove the lane and was contested at the rim by Hunter. Play continued without a whistle and the horn sounded.
All told, Belmont shot 55 percent (30-for-55) from the field - including 64 percent in the second half. The Bruins outrebounded Jacksonville State, 33-32, and forced 13 turnovers.
Bradds scored a career-high 24 points on 11-for-13 shooting, while Bradshaw added 15 to become the 14th Bruin player to score 1,000 or more points in the NCAA Division I era.
Felder led Jacksonville State (10-17, 3-9 OVC) with 19 points.
Belmont (15-10, 7-5 OVC) returns to game action Saturday, Feb. 14 versus Morehead State. Tip-off is set for 6 p.m. CT from the Curb Event Center.
The game will be broadcast on the OVC Digital Network. 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. In-game updates will be available on Twitter @BelmontMBB.