BIRMINGHAM, Ala. - - Behind 31 points and 11 rebounds from senior All-America candidate Dylan Windler (Indianapolis, Ind.), Belmont University men's basketball defeated Samford, 99-93, in overtime Thursday night to remain among the nation's unbeaten teams.
Belmont (6-0) completes its first undefeated month of November since 1994-95 - a season in which the Bruins went 37-2 and ascended to No. 1 in the nation in NAIA.
Consecutive baskets from freshman Nick Muszynski (Pickerington, Ohio) gave Belmont an early 9-8 lead.
The Bruin bench provided a huge scoring punch, as 3-pointers from junior Michael Benkert (Greenwood, Ind.) and sophomore Nick Hopkins (Fayetteville, Tenn.) and a Muszynski putback basket pushed Belmont to a 28-19 advantage midway through the first half.
The host Bulldogs responded with eight straight points before Windler stemmed the tide.
Two more Hopkins 3-pointers in the final two minutes of the first half gave the Bruins a 43-39 lead at halftime.
Belmont shot 42 percent (15-for-36) from the field in the opening 20 minutes - including 6-for-15 from 3-point distance.
The Bruins outrebounded Samford, 26-19, in the first half.
Hopkins led Belmont with 11 first half points.
Two baskets from freshman Caleb Hollander (Nashville, Tenn.) and a Windler wing 3-pointer got Belmont off to a positive start in the second half, but Samford was up to the task.
Josh Sharkey and Myron Gordon matched Bruin scores as the Bulldogs got within 50-49 with 16:28 left.
Hopkins and Windler keyed another Belmont surge, combining on an electrifying 14 points over a three minute span as the Bruins claimed a 70-57 lead with 9:51 remaining.
But as Belmont appeared poised to break free, Samford worked for some extra possessions off strong initial Bruin defense.
A Kevion Nolan 3-pointer trimmed the margin to 70-65 with 8:00 left.
Hollander provided two timely, stabilizing baskets thereafter, and when Hopkins buried his sixth 3-pointer Belmont took a 79-71 lead with 3:12 remaining.
But a series of Belmont offensive rim outs and Samford free throws closed the margin.
A Gordon runout basket got Samford within 79-76 with 1:58 left.
Then after an exchange of defensive stops and monitor reviews, freshman Grayson Murphy (Thompson's Station, Tenn.) gathered a long rebound and freed Windler for a breakaway slam with 16 seconds left to give Belmont an 81-76 lead.
Sharkey raced into the frontcourt and made a deep 3-pointer with 11 seconds left to get Samford within two.
Following a timeout, Belmont freed Hopkins, who was fouled with 10 seconds remaining.
The sophomore calmly sank the front end of one-and-one free throws to extend the Belmont lead to three.
His second free rimmed off, and Samford controlled the rebound.
Nolan came free in the deep corner and made a 3-pointer with two seconds left to tie the score at 82, and force overtime.
It was a somewhat deflating final sequence of events for Belmont, who had controlled much of the second half.
But undeterred, Belmont simply went back to work, playing with toughness and poise.
After a Hollander tip-in basket, Windler made a deep wing 3-pointer with 2:48 left in overtime to push Belmont to an 88-86 lead.
Then after blocking a Robert Allen shot attempt, Windler scored a putback basket to increase the Bruin lead to four.
Senior Kevin McClain (Jennings, Fla.) proceeded to deliver consecutive clutch offensive plays; a driving assist to Hollander and an acrobatic layin as Belmont led 94-89 with 1:18 left in overtime.
A clutch Murphy drive made the score 96-91 with 36 seconds left in the extra session, and Windler added the final three points of the game.
All told, Belmont shot 45 percent (36-for-80) from the field - including 58 percent in overtime.
The Bruins handed out 21 assists.
Aside from his 31 points and 11 rebounds, Windler added three steals and two blocked shots.
Hopkins added a season-high 21, while Hollander had 16 points and eight rebounds. McClain scored 11, with six rebounds and five assists.
Gordon led Samford (7-2) with 22 points.
Belmont returns to game action Saturday, Dec. 1 at Green Bay. Tip-off is set for 1 p.m. CT. The game will be broadcast on ESPN3 and the ESPN app. The live play-by-play of Voice of the Bruins Kevin Ingram can be heard on the Bruin Sports Network and the Belmont Gameday app. In-game updates will be available via Twitter @BelmontMBB.
NOTES: Belmont has won 10 of the last 11 meetings with Samford ... Windler has 20 career double-doubles; he had 34 points and 11 rebounds vs. Middle Tennessee (11/12/18) ... Belmont grabbed 50+ rebounds for a second consecutive game ... Benkert had five points and three assists ... This marked Belmont's first game at Samford since being the first men's basketball opponent in the Pete Hanna Center (11/15/07).