COOKEVILLE, Tenn. - - Belmont University men's basketball rode near record-setting shooting to outlast Tennessee Tech, 88-82, Saturday night.
The Bruins looked to build off of momentum from Thursday night's emotional victory over Eastern Kentucky, while the talented and energized Golden Eagles sought to keep their postseason hopes alive on Senior Day.
Unlike the Jan. 31 meeting - a defensive struggle which Belmont claimed 71-53 - an old-fashioned shootout materialized from the opening tip.
Belmont made six of its first seven shots, taking a 15-6 lead on a three-pointer from junior Craig Bradshaw (Ridgetop, Tenn.).
But six straight points from Torrance Rowe and a Josiah Moore three-pointer got Tennessee Tech within 17-15 with 12:42 remaining in the half.
Both teams embraced the end-to-end action, and it was some of the most entertaining basketball of the season. Belmont was free flowing offensively, with all five players getting in on the action.
After the Golden Eagles tied the score, a three-pointer from sophomore Nick Smith (Bentonville, Ark.) and two layins from sophomore Evan Bradds (Jamestown, Ohio) pushed the Bruin lead back out to 33-26 with 7:04 left in the half.
Charles Jackson established a post presence for Tennessee Tech, as his hook trimmed the margin to 37-34 at the 4:10 mark.
After four Bradshaw free throws, Belmont looked to close the half in style. Following a rare Bradds miss inside, Smith attacked the offensive glass and earned a trip to the free throw line on the final possession of the first half.
His two free throws gave Belmont a 43-36 lead at halftime.
Belmont shot 61 percent (14-for-23) from the field in the opening 20 minutes - including 6-for-12 from three-point distance. The Bruins outrebounded Tennessee Tech, 14-10, in the first half.
Eight Bruins scored in the opening 20 minutes, a stark contrast to Thursday night where Bradshaw carried the early scoring load.
The Bruins continued the positive momentum into the second half. When Bradshaw threaded a full speed, open court bounce pass to sophomore Taylor Barnette (Lexington, Ky.) for an easy two, Belmont increased its lead to 53-43 with 16:47 remaining.
Jackson would pick up his third personal foul early in the second half as well, altering Tennessee Tech's offensive attack.
Nevertheless, behind Dwan Caldwell and a Jordan Johnson three-pointer, the Golden Eagles climbed within 57-53 with 14:16 remaining.
But once again, Smith replied with a wing three-pointer, which sparked another Bruin run.
A determined post move from freshman Mack Mercer (Plymouth, Ind.) and consecutive three-pointers from Barnette and Smith extended the lead to 12, 68-56, with 11:25 left.
A thunderous tip-in slam from Bradds kept the lead 72-61 with 9:25 to go, before Tennessee Tech unleashed a big run of its own.
With Belmont enduring some head-scratching free throw shooting during a rare five-minute scoreless spell, a twisting Rowe layin got the Golden Eagles within 72-68.
Then following a Mason Ramsey three-pointer, Rowe added a conventional three-point play to give Tennessee Tech lead.
Caldwell capped the 15-0 Tennessee Tech spurt from the free throw line to give the hosts a 76-72 lead with 4:58 left.
It was a jarring turn of events, especially considering how well the Bruins had played for 30-plus minutes.
But Belmont remained poised, closing the game on a 16-6 run.
Smith once again provided the lift, burying a three-pointer to close the margin to one.
Then following a defensive stop, senior Reece Chamberlain (Goodlettsville, Tenn.) tipped home a Smith miss to put Belmont back ahead, 77-76, with 4:02 to go.
After one Javon McKay free throw, Chamberlain drove past the entire Golden Eagle defense to score and put Belmont up two.
Then after Chamberlain kept a possession alive on the offensive glass, Bradds scored inside to stretch the lead to 81-77 with 2:45 remaining.
McKay would again make one free throw to close the gap to three points with 2:23 left.
But Belmont continued its surgical offensive execution, with Chamberlain finding Bradshaw along the baseline for a layin to make the score 83-78 with 2:13 to go.
Ramsey would add two free throws before Bradshaw punctuated a gorgeous takeoff play to maintain the Bruins' five point lead.
Caldwell would make it a one possession game with 1:15 remaining, but Chamberlain made three free throws in the final 56 seconds to secure the victory.
All told, Belmont shot 65.3 percent (32-for-49) from the field for the game - including 18-for-26 in the second half. The shooting performance threatened the Bruins' single-game NCAA Division I era record of 67 percent shooting at Eastern Kentucky two seasons ago.
Bradshaw led five Bruins in double figures with 17 points. Bradds added 16 points and nine rebounds. Barnette, Chamberlain and Smith each scored 14.
Rowe led Tennessee Tech (12-16, 4-10 OVC) with 24 points.
Belmont (18-10, 10-5 OVC) returns to game action Saturday, Feb. 28 versus Tennessee State.
Tip-off is set for 5 p.m. CT from the Curb Event Center. The game will be broadcast on CBS Sports Network. The live play-by-play of Voice of the Bruins Kevin Ingram can be heard on the Bruin Sports Network. In-game updates will be available on Twitter @BelmontMBB.
NOTES: Mercer had another nice evening with eight points ... Belmont outscored Tennessee Tech off the bench, 23-10.