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Fight to the Finish

Fight to the Finish

NASHVILLE, Tenn. - - Sophomore Evan Bradds (Jamestown, Ohio) scored a conventional three-point play with 11 seconds remaining to lift Belmont University men's basketball to a 58-57 victory over Morehead State Saturday night.

The Bruins and Eagles met for the second time in eight days, and it would be another game that hung in the balance until the final horn.

After an early three-pointer from junior Craig Bradshaw (Ridgetop, Tenn.), Karam Mashour gave Morehead State an 8-4 lead with a short jumper.

While both teams shot over 50 percent from the field in the previous meeting, neither team could work into an offensive rhythm.

Belmont worked its way into the bonus, with 8:47 remaining in the first half, but as was the case a week ago, the Bruins could not take advantage from the free throw line. Six misses from the charity stripe in the opening 20 minutes extinguished positive momentum.

Nevertheless, Belmont did not let it impact its defense, holding Morehead State scoreless for nearly six minutes midway through the first half.

After Bradds gave Belmont a 15-13 lead, senior Reece Chamberlain (Goodlettsville, Tenn.) would pick up his second personal foul at the 6:20 mark, forcing him to the sidelines.

A wing three-pointer from sophomore Taylor Barnette (Lexington, Ky.) gave Belmont a 20-18 lead before consecutive interior baskets from freshman Mack Mercer (Plymouth, Ind.) kept the Bruins on top.

A Corban Collins three-pointer gave Morehead State a 27-25 lead at halftime.

Belmont shot 31 percent (8-for-26) from the field in the opening 20 minutes – including 3-for-7 from three-point distance.

The Bruins only committed four first half turnovers while limiting Morehead State to 32 percent shooting.

Free throws from freshman Amanze Egekeze (Lake in the Hills, Ill.) and a Bradds slam got Belmont off and running in the second half.

A jump hook from freshman Tyler Hadden (Cincinnati, Ohio) lifted Belmont to a 35-34 edge with 13:26 left.

With Chamberlain still nursing foul trouble, sophomore Caleb Chowbay (Mt. Juliet, Tenn.) and senior Holden Mobley (Nashville, Tenn.) supplied important minutes off the bench.

Belmont once again worked into the bonus - with 11:52 remaining in regulation - and this half the Bruins would capitalize from the free throw line.

With Mercer and Bradds providing determined post scoring, the Bruins maintained a 44-42 lead with 8:37 to go.

Each possession took on added value, as neither team backed down.

A Mashour tip-in gave Morehead State a 47-46 advantage, before the Bruins answered back with two Bradshaw free throws and a Mercer slam.

Two Billy Reader baskets pushed the Eagles to a 54-50 lead with 4:04 remaining – the largest lead either side enjoyed throughout.

After two Mercer free throws cut the deficit in half with 3:05 left, the teams exchanged defensive stops before a Mashour steal led to a Collins layin and a 56-52 Eagle edge with 2:11 to go.

In need of a score, Bradds worked inside and found Chamberlain for a deep corner three-pointer which trimmed the margin to one, 56-55, with 1:54 left.

The Bruins proceeded to play a strong possession of defense, forcing Collins to miss a leaning 17-footer late in the shot clock. But as Mercer secured the defensive rebound, two Eagles swarmed and came up with a steal.

Arrington would then be fouled moments later in the paint.

He made one free throw with 1:11 remaining to extend the Morehead State lead to two.

Following a Bruin timeout, head coach Rick Byrd dialed up one of his countless specialty plays. Sophomore Nick Smith (Bentonville, Ark.) rimmed out a three-pointer with 56 seconds remaining which would have given Belmont the lead.

From there, Morehead State worked the offensive possession, ultimately finding Arrington along the baseline with 24 seconds remaining. With Egekeze and Bradshaw converging, Arrington missed at the rim, and Belmont secured the rebound.

Bradshaw proceeded to drive the lane and pass to Bradds, who scored on a reverse layin plus the foul with 11 seconds remaining to tie the score at 57.

After a Belmont timeout to set up defensive assignments and substitutions, Bradds completed the three-point play to give Belmont a 58-57 lead.

Morehead State would race into the frontcourt, with Storey missing a contested drive down the right side of the lane with three seconds remaining.

As both teams battled for the rebound, Reader and Arrington would miss off-balance putback attempts before the horn sounded.

Several players from both teams were shaken up on the final sequence, but after athletic trainers came to their aid, Belmont and Morehead State showed great sportsmanship and respect in exchanging handshakes at midcourt.

The game featured 14 ties and 19 lead changes.

All told, Belmont shot 40 percent (18-for-45) from the field – including 53 percent in the second half. The Bruins went 12-for-13 from the free throw line in the second half, while limiting Morehead State to 34 percent shooting.

Mercer led three Bruins in double figures with a career-high 17 points. Bradds tallied his sixth career double-double with 13 points and 10 rebounds. Chamberlain added 10.

Arrington led Morehead State (12-16, 7-6 OVC) with 15 points.

Belmont (16-10, 8-5 OVC) returns to game action Thursday, Feb. 19 versus Eastern Kentucky.

Tip-off is set for 7 p.m. CT from the Curb Event Center. The game will be broadcast on 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.

NOTES: Belmont has won 28 consecutive conference home games dating back to 2011 … Belmont outscored Morehead State, 23-9, off the bench … Mercer's 17 points represent the most at home by a Bruin freshman since Bradds had 19 last season vs. Lipscomb … Bradds has five double-doubles in OVC play … Bradshaw had six assists for the fourth time this season.