Behind exemplary guard play, Belmont University men’s basketball defeated Austin Peay, 78-65, Saturday night.
The Bruins, who saw their 24-game conference winning streak snapped at Murray State, 79-74, Thursday night, looked to get back on track against a talented albeit snakebit Austin Peay team.
The Governors entered play having lost seven games by one possession or in overtime.
A layin by junior Blake Jenkins (Knoxville, Tenn.) and two free throws from senior Kerron Johnson (Huntsville, Ala.) got Belmont off to a promising start.
A steal and layin from junior J.J. Mann (Smyrna, Ga.) and two free throws from senior Ian Clark (Memphis, Tenn.) soon followed as the Bruin held Austin Peay to one made field goal over the first 5:30 of the game.
But Belmont was unable to take full advantage, as the Bruins committed an uncharacteristic six turnovers in the first eight minutes.
After consecutive three-pointers from Johnson and freshman Craig Bradshaw (Franklin, Tenn.), a Chris Horton layin gave Austin Peay a 15-14 lead with 8:30 left in the first half.
From there, the Bruins strung together defensive stops which sparked an offensive flurry.
Mann and Clark each buried three-pointers during an 8-0 run that gave Belmont a 22-15 lead.
Despite foul trouble for Jenkins, the Bruins continued the strong end-of-half play.
Mann would scored 10 more points in the final 4:02 of the half, as Belmont closed the first half on a 22-6 run in taking a 36-21 halftime lead.
Belmont shot 42 percent (11-for-26) from the field in the opening 20 minutes – including 6-for-16 from three-point distance. The Bruins outrebounded the Governors by three, while forcing 11 turnovers.
Travis Betran opened the second half scoring, before Mann, Clark, and Jenkins each scored to push the Bruin lead to 43-23 with 17:37 left.
Fouls did accumulate, but Belmont turned defensive stops and turnovers into high percentage scoring opportunities in transition.
Clark and senior Trevor Noack (Keller, Texas) combined on 13 points as Belmont led 60-39 with 11:27 left.
Though Betran would heat up late, getting Austin Peay as close as 67-53 with 6:50 left, Clark and Mann would team on three three-pointers in a 1:32 span to secure the victory.
Belmont led 78-55 late before Austin Peay closed the game on a 10-0 run.
All told, Belmont shot 47 percent (28-for-60) from the field – including 14-for-24 from three-point distance. The Bruins scored 23 points off 16 Austin Peay turnovers.
Belmont claimed 12 steals.
Mann led Belmont with a career-high 26 points. Clark added 25 points, five assists, and four steals. Johnson delivered a fine all-around game, with nine points, seven rebounds, and four assists.
Betran led Austin Peay (5-20, 1-10 OVC) with 22 points.
Belmont (20-5, 11-1 OVC) returns to action Thursday, Feb. 14 at Tennessee State. Tip-off is set for 6:00 p.m. CT. The game will be broadcast live on ESPNU and the Watch ESPN app.
The live play-by-play of Voice of the Bruins Kevin Ingram can be heard on the Bruin Sports Network and 104.5 The Zone. Live video streaming will be available via the OVC Digital Network. In-game updates will be provided via Twitter @BelmontMBB.
NOTES: With the victory, Belmont has won 20+ games in eight of the past 10 years … Belmont now has 10 victories away from home this season … Mann set new career-high for made field goals (10), made three-point field goals (6) and points (26) … Clark went 5-for-11 from three-point distance to maintain his NCAA leading three-point field goal percentage (.512) … Noack and Johnson his had seven rebounds … Senior Adam Barnes and Associate Head Coach Brian Ayers are natives of Clarksville, Tenn. … Belmont has won four consecutive games against Austin Peay.
Release provided by Belmont Athletics