During The first few minutes of the game everything we have come to know about Belmont was on full display. Early on the bruins showed that they were comfortable on the road with their style of play while not giving in to the UNC’s fast pace. They have a style of play built on great decision making and ball movement that allows them to compete against any team on any given night. Their shot selections often keep them in games against teams with superior talent and they can rock a team to sleep if they do not maintain focus. Belmont started hot from the 3 pt. line hitting 4 of their first 8 before the 2nd media TO. Belmont continues to prove that shooting from 3 can be a great equalizer for a team that may not be superior in talent. We will go behind the box score of the game and into the well-coached game plan of Coach Rick Byrd along with some sets and schemes that were well executed by his players.
Early on in the game Belmont relied upon their 4 out 1 in style motion that got the ball swing from side to side. When the offense stalled Coach Byrd went into his stash and called a set that used his player’s great passing and shooting ability. On at least 2 different possessions Coach Byrd drew up a simple yet well executed set that produced positive looks. The set below shows Belmont working their motion offense until they emptied out the ball side post with only one player remaining on the wing. The ball handler would then dribble at the wing causing a backdoor cut to a baseline drift. While any given offensive set may not always produce points, you can judge its effectiveness based on the quality of the shot. Although Belmont did not convert both attempts, they got two quality looks against a decent UNC defense.
On the defensive side of the ball Belmont competed hard by diving on the floor for loose balls and making UNC’s shots a tough as possible. But their lack of size proved to be a problem against a much bigger UNC squad. Anticipating a UNC would crash the boards harder in the 2nd half, Coach Byrd made several adjustments in his scheme. It was noted throughout the game by announcers that Belmont did not send any players to the offensive glass as they wanted to slow up the historically fast passed UNC attack. This was even more evident in the 2nd half as those same protect the paint principles transferred into their half court scheme. In the first half UNC strived off dribble penetrations which lead to 3 players being in foul trouble before halftime. The defensive breakdowns, James McAdoo’s dominant performance and Belmont’s inability to grab defensive rebounds made them utilize a pack the paint scheme that paid dividends at key stretches in the game. As you can see here Belmont’s defenders did not over react to a catch on the perimeter and allowed themselves to give a cushion. That space allowed them to contain UNC’s dribble penetration while giving them a shorter distance to the defensive glass. The loss of P.J Hairiston and Leslie McDonald made this scheme easier to execute as UNC was without another player two players on the court that shot 39% and 35% from 3 last season.
If there are two problems with Belmont’s offense to be pointed out it is their turnover problem along with the lack of a penetrating guard if Reese Chamberlin is not producing. When Chamberlin sat in the middle of the 1st half the Bruins lacked any driving presence that could create dump down opportunities for the post or kick outs to their array of shooters. Out of 53 shot attempts for the game 37 of them came from 3 with few of those deriving from wide open catch and shoot opportunities. If Belmont can creat a few more easy opportunities per game they will be even more dangerous in the future.
The 16 turnovers also came into play as a part of Belmont’s offense stalled out and struggled to stay in rhythm. A bad stretch of output came in the middle of the 2nd half when careless turnovers allowed UNC to take its first lead since the 14 minute mark of the first half.
14:07 J.J. Mann Turnover. 55-46
13:48 J.J. Mann missed Three Point Jumper. 55-46
13:25 Jeff Laidig missed Three Point Jumper. 55-48
13:25 Holden Mobley Offensive Rebound. 55-48
13:13 J.J. Mann made Three Point Jumper. 58-48
12:53 Caleb Chowbay missed Three Point Jumper. 58-51
12:30 J.J. Mann made Free Throw. 59-51
12:30 J.J. Mann made Free Throw. 60-51
11:52 Caleb Chowbay Turnover. 60-53
11:31 Reece Chamberlain missed Jumper. 60-55
11:04 Craig Bradshaw Turnover. 60-57
10:44 60-57 Brice Johnson Offensive Rebound.
10:05 J.J. Mann missed Jumper. 60-59
8:54 Reece Chamberlain Turnover. 60-59
8:12 J.J. Mann missed Jumper. 60-62
7:48 Reece Chamberlain Turnover. 60-62
7:22 Blake Jenkins Turnover.
A stat that I’m sure the Bruins would like to see reduced is the ratio in which the give the ball to the opposing team. Belmont turns the ball over 1 of every 5 possessions which could make it hard to create or maintain an offensive flow in the future if that number is not changed. Given the shooters that are spaced out all around the court a bad shot attempt from three is better for their offensive output than a turnover.
At the 1:13 mark UNC called a timeout that proved to be more beneficial for the bruins than the Tar Heels. I’m not sure if JJ Mann drunk someone Jordan’s secret stuff during that timeout, but what followed was a series of 3s that may make me take back by piece about being unsure of his preseason All OVC selection.
Coach Byrd drew up a quick hitter that took 5 seconds to run from the inbounds to the time UNC took the ball out. It was perfect for the situation as it cut the lead from 6 to 3 with little time being burnt off the clock. G Spencer Turner dribbled towards F Drew Windler as he set a wide pin down for JJ Mann sprinting up from the corner. A wrinkle that Belmont has been implementing for Mann so far this season is a toss to him on the move that would appear to some as a dribble handoff. But often times it is actually a rondo-esque pitch that allows Mann to catch the ball in rhythm a modified off the bounce shot.
With the lead up to 5 after a pair of free throws from Marcus Paige, Belmont yet again found a quality 3 that took 5 seconds from start to finish. Sensing that UNC would not react so poorly to a dribble handoff on back to back possessions Mann set his defender up with a series of head fakes and jab steps to get him anticipating the same action. With a nice pocket pass from G Reese Chamberlin Mann drained another 3 pointer that cut UNC’s lead to 2 with 52.9 remaining.
Spoiler Alert: Coach Byrd makes a great decision while JJ Mann makes a great shot
After a terrible turnover by Marcus Paige Coach Byrd is left with a classic coaching decision. Call a timeout to draw up a set while Coach Williams inserts his best defensive lineup. Or trust our months of practicing for these situations against a defensive unit we just torched the past 2 possessions. Sure the decision sounds simple enough but I’ve had time to watch the game in slow motion with nothing on the line. There were no bells or whistles to the Bruins actions as the simply put Mann in a great position on the move against a defender that proved inept to guard the dribble handoff. McAdoo makes the poor decision of going under the screen and Mann makes him pay.
To their credit the Bruins stuck with their game plan and never seemed to falter when UNC made strides on their home court. The showed a great resolve for a roster blended with youth and experience and continue to make news in the world of college Basketball. Although some skeptics will be foolish enough to point out that UNC did not have 2 of their better players, it is always an accomplishment to bet the #12 ranked team in the country. If the Bruins continue to make strides all season then the OVC championship could once again come through Nashville.