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OVC Semifinal Preview

OVC Semifinal Preview

EVANSVILLE, Ind. - - Belmont University men's basketball returns to game action Friday in the semifinal round of the 2019 OVC Basketball Championship.

Belmont (25-4) defeated Southeast Missouri, 84-66, March 2 to claim its 10th regular season conference championship in 14 years and fifth in seven years of OVC membership.

Belmont received votes in both national polls this week, the third time this season the Bruins earned national poll votes. The Bruin program has received national Top 25 poll votes eight of the last nine years.

Senior All-America candidate Dylan Windler (Indianapolis, Ind.) was one of three Bruins named All-OVC First Team Tuesday. Windler cemented his place among the most complete players in college basketball. Among national leaders in defensive rebounding and double-doubles, the 6-8 guard/forward is the only player in America averaging at least 20.0 points, 10.0 rebounds and 2.5 assists per game. 26 of Windler's 71 career double figure scoring games have come this season to date, including seven double-doubles with 30 or more points. Windler averaged 23.0 points and 10.9 rebounds per game in league play on 58 percent shooting. The Indianapolis native ranks among OVC leaders in 10 statistical categories, including third in points per game (21.1) and first in rebounding (10.3) - a category he has led two straight seasons. Windler, whose offensive efficiency rating (126.5) per Ken Pomeroy ranks third nationally behind Duke's Zion Williamson and Furman's Matt Rafferty, is a candidate for the Julius Erving Award, Lou Henson Award and Senior CLASS Award

Senior Kevin McClain (Jennings, Fla.) was also named All-OVC First Team. The 6-3 guard recorded 26 double figure scoring games, including 15 consecutive to close the regular season. McClain delivered in the biggest of situations, most notably his game-high 20 points, six rebounds, six assists and two steals - and game-winning shot with 2.3 seconds remaining - in Belmont's victory at UCLA. He also had 58 points in two wins over Southeast Missouri. The Jennings, Florida native, who twice earned OVC Player of the Week honors, averaged 18.0 points, 4.4 assists and 1.1 steals per game in OVC play.

Freshman Nick Muszynski (Pickerington, Ohio) was named OVC Freshman of the Year, All-OVC First Team and OVC All-Newcomer Team. The 6-11 center tallied 23 double figure scoring games, including a career-high 27 point performance vs. Southeast Missouri (1/31/19). He also recorded 20 points, six assists and three blocked shots at Murray State (1/24/19). Muszynski leads the OVC and ranks among national leaders in field goal percentage (.611) and blocked shots per game (2.21). In addition, Muszynski registered 16 games of three or more assists, and his 78 assists from the post are surpassed only by Wisconsin All-America candidate Ethan Happ. He was named OVC Freshman of the Week a league-high six times.

Freshman Grayson Murphy (Franklin, Tenn.) took over point guard duties for head coach Rick Byrd this season and excelled in Belmont's offensive system. The 6-2 guard recorded six games of double figure assists, including a Belmont NCAA Division I era single-game record of 16 assists at UT Martin (2/28/19). Murphy ranks among national leaders in assists (6.5) and assist-to-turnover ratio (2.66). He scored a career-high 20 points in Belmont's victory over Western Kentucky (12/19/18).

Sophomore Nick Hopkins (Fayetteville, Tenn.) was inserted into the starting lineup Jan. 19 vs. Tennessee State, and the Bruins won 13 consecutive games. The 6-0 scoring dynamo has 18 career double figure scoring games, including six during league play this season. Hopkins has made 108 career 3-point field goals, and scored a season-high 21 points at Samford (11/29/18).

Belmont ranks top 25 nationally in 10 statistical categories, including first in assists per game (20.1), second in scoring offense (88.3), second in assist-to-turnover ratio (1.71), fifth in field goal percentage (.504) and fifth in offensive efficiency.

Byrd has recruited the state of Indiana heavily over the years, with five current players (Windler, Adelsperger, Benkert, Epley, Mercer) hailing from the Hoosier state. Past notable Belmont players include Jordan Campbell (Indianapolis), Adam Mark (Bremen) and Steve Drabyn (LaPorte).
 
Belmont will face either Austin Peay or Morehead State Friday, March 8 in the OVC Semifinal Round. Tip-off is set for 7 p.m. CT from the Ford Center in Evansville, Indiana. The game will be broadcast on ESPNU 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.
 
 
Belmont University men's basketball has earned postseason invitations 12 of the last 13 seasons, including seven automatic berths to the NCAA Tournament. The Bruins have won 17 conference championships since 2006 - third-most nationally over that span (Gonzaga, Kansas). Belmont is one of only six NCAA Division I programs outside the Power 5 to post Top 100 RPIs eight consecutive seasons (BYU, Gonzaga, Saint Mary's (CA), San Diego State, Wichita State). Belmont is one of only nine NCAA Division I programs to win 19 or more games 14 consecutive seasons (BYU, Duke, Gonzaga, Kansas, Louisville, Michigan State, North Carolina, San Diego State). Belmont University men's basketball boasts an NCAA-leading 16 CoSIDA Academic All-America selections since 2001 and is one of only three NCAA Division I programs to make the NCAA Academic Progress Rate (APR) Honor Roll every year of existence.