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Winning Plays with Windler

Winning Plays with Windler

CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. - - Behind 33 points and 12 rebounds from senior All-America candidate Dylan Windler (Indianapolis, Ind.), Belmont University men's basketball defeated Austin Peay, 96-92, Saturday.

Much was made of Belmont's virtual wire-to-wire victory Thursday night at Murray State, but the Bruin players and coaching staff knew that an equally formidable task awaited them less than 48 hours later.

The resurgent Governors entered having won 12 of their previous 14 games - including an undefeated home record - boasting a roster of talented and versatile players.

And while a high-scoring affair was expected with two of the OVC's most efficient teams, few could have expected the individual performances that transpired.

Belmont and Austin Peay exchanged offensive haymakers early, combining on 37 points before the first media timeout.

Consecutive layins from freshman Grayson Murphy (Franklin, Tenn.) gave Belmont a 19-16 lead, but the host Governors continued their brisk pace.

Five straight points from Chris Porter-Bunton gave Austin Peay a 28-23 lead nine minutes in.

After Windler trimmed the margin to 34-30, Austin Peay rode the hot hand of Terry Taylor to an extended lead.

Taylor, an impressive scorer from all angles, entered play 5-for-24 from 3-point distance in OVC play; but he was feeling it on this late afternoon, as his 16 first-half points carried the hosts to a 50-40 halftime lead.

Both teams shot over 55 percent from the floor in the opening 20 minutes.

A conventional 3-point play from freshman Caleb Hollander (Nashville, Tenn.) opened the second half and got Belmont within seven points, but Austin Peay continued to have answers.

A Jarrett Givens basket and another Taylor 3-pointer made the score 58-45 with 16:40 remaining.

After a short jumper from sophomore Nick Hopkins (Fayetteville, Tenn.) stemmed the tide, Givens buried another 3-pointer to give Austin Peay a 65-51 edge with 13:34 left.

That's when Windler began one of the most impressive stretches of play in Belmont history, seemingly willing the Bruins over the top.

A Windler assist to Hopkins started the run, and when the dust settled, Windler scored 20 consecutive points for Belmont in a six-minute stretch.

The 6-8 guard/forward did it all: acrobatic reverse layins, offensive rebound putbacks, and his confident wing 3-pointer with 5:30 left punctuated the flurry and got the Bruins within 79-76.

After a basket from freshman Nick Muszynski (Pickerington, Ohio), Murphy delivered a steal and conventional 3-point play to give Belmont an 81-79 lead with 4:34 remaining - its first lead since 19-18.

Another Murphy basket in the lane increased the lead to four points.

But two Porter-Bunton 3-pointers around a dunk from senior Kevin McClain (Jennings, Fla.) tied the score at 85 with 3:03 left.

After an exchange of baskets, McClain finished a tough driving layin with 1:25 remaining to give Belmont an 89-87 lead.

Then after a McClain steal, the senior found sophomore Nick Hopkins (Fayetteville, Tenn.) for a trailer 3-pointer with 59 seconds left to give the Bruins a five point lead.

Belmont proceeded to get a defensive stop, but Taylor stole a hit-ahead pass as the Bruins were positioned to work clock.

From there, Taylor scored a putback basket to get the Governors within three, 92-89, with 22 seconds left.

Hopkins would push the Belmont lead back to five with two free throws with 17 seconds to go.

Zach Glotta would then rim out a contested 3-pointer, but as the ball took an awkward bounce off the rim, Porter-Bunton snuck in and scored while being fouled.

His conventional 3-point play got Austin Peay within 94-92 with 10.7 seconds left.

After a secure inbounds pass, Muszynski was fouled with seven seconds remaining. He confidently made both free throws to secure the victory.

All told, Belmont shot a season-high 63 percent (37-for-59) from the field - including 69 percent in the second half.

Windler went 12-for-15 from the field to lead five Bruins in double figures.

Murphy had 17 points and a career-high 15 assists - a Belmont NCAA Division I era single-game record.

McClain had 16, while Hopkins added 13 points and a career-high seven rebounds. Muzynski had 12.

Porter-Bunton led Austin Peay (14-7, 6-2 OVC) with 24 points.

Belmont (15-4, 6-2 OVC) returns to game action Thursday, Jan. 31 vs. Southeast Missouri. Tip-off is set for 7 p.m. CT from the Curb Event Center. The game will be broadcast on ESPN+ and the ESPN app. 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 via Twitter @BelmontMBB.

NOTES: Belmont has won 11 of the last 12 meetings vs. Austin Peay ... Belmont handed out 25 assists on 37 made field goals ... Belmont outscored Austin Peay, 60-34, in points in the paint ... Belmont scored 47 points in the final 13:58 of the game ... With 16 points, McClain became the 19th member of Belmont's NCAA Division I era 1,000 point club; McClain has 1,014 career points ... Windler recorded his 26th career double-double; fourth this season with 30-10 ... Hopkins has scored in double figures in four consecutive games ... With the victory, Belmont head coach Rick Byrd has 793 career victories.