Ian Clark hits six second half threes, as Belmont overcomes a slow shooting half to topple Tennessee State and advance to their first Ohio Valley Conference championship game in the first season.
|FG (%)||29-62 (47.5%)||27-60 (45.0%)|
|3FG (%)||10-26 (38.5%)||7-24 (29.2%)|
|FT (%)||5-6 (83.3%)||21-30 (70.0%)|
|REB (O/D)||35 (13/22)||35 (16/19)|
|POINTS:||Kellen Thorton - 22||Ian Clark - 26|
|REBOUNDS:||Kellen Thorton - 12||Blake Jenkings - 7|
|ASSISTS:||Patrick Miller - 12||Kerron Johnson - 7|
Provided by Belmont Athletics
Belmont University men’s basketball defeated Tennessee State, 82-73, Saturday night in the semifinal round of the 2013 OVC Basketball Championship.
A tough, hotly-contested game was anticipated between the two Music City schools in the Bruins’ first OVC Tournament game. The contest featured five all-OVC players – including Belmont seniors Kerron Johnson (Huntsville, Ala.) and Ian Clark (Memphis, Tenn.) – and each delivered strong performances for their teams.
The Bruins made five of their first six shots in seizing an early 10-7 lead. But after two Clark free throws tied the score at 12, Belmont endured a six minute scoring drought. Tennessee State took advantage, taking a 21-12 lead on a driving layin from Patrick Miller.
Yet despite the early adversity, Belmont remained poised; showing the resiliency and defensive toughness that led them to an regular season championship.
Behind the leadership of Johnson and active team defense, Belmont swung momentum in its favor. A coast-to-coast basket by junior J.J. Mann (Smyrna, Ga.) and one Johnson free throw capped an 11-0 Belmont run that gave the Bruins a 28-25 lead with 2:37 left in the first half.
And despite Clark picking up a second personal foul with 5:18 left in the half, the Bruins carried a 32-29 lead at halftime.
Belmont shot 36 percent (12-for-33) in the opening 20 minutes – including an uncharacteristic 0-for-10 from three-point distance. The Bruins forced 13 Tiger turnovers and held a plus-one rebounding edge.
Johnson led Belmont with 11 first half points.
The late half surge carried into the second half, as two Johnson free throws, a basket from senior Trevor Noack (Keller, Texas) and another Mann steal and score pushed the Belmont lead to 38-29 with 18:12 remaining.
Back-to-back three-pointers from Clark stretched the lead to 48-37, but Robert Covington kept Tennessee State alive with an impressive scoring flurry of his own.
After Covington trimmed the margin to six points, Clark buried another three-pointer off an assist from sophomore Reece Chamberlain (Goodlettsville, Tenn.) to make the score 59-50 with 11:52 remaining.
Kellen Thornton took the scoring baton from Covington, as seven straight points and a Miller layin got the Tigers within 63-59 with 7:45 left.
But again, Clark provided a deep wing three-pointer off a Chamberlain assist to increase the Bruin edge back to seven.
After three points from Thornton, Belmont got one Johnson free throw and a determined drive from Noack to lead 69-62 with 3:46 left.
But each time Tennessee State got within reach, Belmont provided an answer. A driving score from Johnson and a backdoor layin from Mann gave Belmont a 73-66 lead with 2:28 to go.
Leading by five points with 1:10 left, Belmont got strong transition defense from Mann and senior Brandon Baker (Milford, Ohio) to deny Thornton inside. Johnson then added one free throw and a steal and score basket with 36 seconds left to give Belmont a 76-68 lead.
The Bruins went 6-for-6 from the free throw line in the final 30 seconds to secure the victory.
All told, Belmont shot 45 percent (27-for-60) from the field – including 7-for-14 from three-point distance in the second half. The Bruins forced 21 Tennessee State turnovers.
Clark led four Bruins in double figures with 26 points – 20 in the second half. Johnson had 23 points, seven assists and three steals, while Mann added 13 points, six rebounds and four steals.
Junior Blake Jenkins (Knoxville, Tenn.) had 10 points and seven rebounds.
Thornton led Tennessee State (18-14) with 22 points.
What’s Being Said
Yeah…that didn’t last…
This new environment is killing the Belmont 3. Never seen so many bounce straight out in my life.
— Byrd Cage (@BelmontByrdCage) March 9, 2013
This is the most talented senior class to come out of the OVC…ever?
Robert Covington for Tennessee State is a really good player. Wouldn’t be surprised if he has some NBA intrigue.
— Dan Wolken (@DanWolken) March 9, 2013
When the Bruins not only survived, but led at halftime without hitting a single three, you had to feel good about their chances. When Ian Clark hit six of his first seven three-point attempts in the second half, you had to feel great about their chances. Tennessee State still made a run late, but it was simply Belmont’s night.
Tennessee State started out the game with a big edge on the boards, pulling down 16 of the first 25. But by the end of the game, the Tigers were tied on the glass with the Bruins, which is a major win for Belmont. The Bruins lost the rebounding battle in the majority of their regular season games, and being able to be even with Tennessee State, a terrific rebounding team, is a good accomplishment.
Belmont has the swagger of a championship team, and plenty of talent to boot. This win should greatly help their chances to stay in the at-large situation if they happen to lose on Saturday.
Playing games on back-to-back days tend to hurt jump shooting teams, as it did Belmont in Alaska earlier this year. They’ll likely need to make shots early in the championship game, instead of late to come out on top.