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A Number's Game

Photo Courtesy: Rebecca Wilcox
Photo Courtesy: Rebecca Wilcox

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - - Belmont University men's basketball dropped a 73-62 decision at [rv/--] Purdue Saturday.

Sometimes percentages play out according to the scouting report; other times they make coaches and fans scratch their heads.

Purdue, a talented, balanced, and disciplined Big Ten contender, entered Saturday's action allowing the opposition to shoot 38 percent from 3-point distance - a fact that seemed to play into the favor of Belmont, annually among the nation's top 3-point shooting teams.

But on this afternoon in Mackey Arena, Belmont would inexplicably miss 22 of its first 26 attempts from behind the arc, many of which were open in the semblance of the Bruin offense.

Belmont rode its defense and rebounding to stay within striking distance before Purdue closed the first half on a scoring run to lead 40-24 at halftime.

Nevertheless, despite enduring an uncharteristically poor shooting game, the Bruins rode the strong all-court play of guards Grayson Murphy (Franklin, Tenn.) and Kevin McClain (Jennings, Fla.) to flip the script.

Freshman Nick Muszynski (Pickerington, Ohio) capped a spirited 14-0 run over a two-minute span to get Belmont within 57-48 with 7:38 left.

That's when the percentages again went against the grain.

Purdue guard Nojel Eastern - a career 38 percent free throw shooter who entered Saturday's play 3-for-12 from the stripe on the season - made six consecutive free throws down the stretch to sour Belmont's courageous comeback effort.

Belmont got within 61-54 on a McClain 3-pointer, and had two chances to close within four points, but the Bruins could get no closer.

McClain led Belmont with 21 points, 18 in the second half. Muszynski had 14 points, five rebounds and three blocked shots.

Carsen Edwards led Purdue (8-5) with 24 points.

Belmont is 9-2.

NOTES: Belmont held Purdue to 34 percent shooting in the second half and a season-low seven 3-point field goals ... It was Belmont's first game against a Big Ten Conference opponent since the 2011 NCAA Tournament vs. Wisconsin ... Junior Michael Benkert made his first career start.