This will be the eternal question every time Belmont loses this season: How do you go from beating North Carolina on the road, to (insert loss here). For Belmont, it’s an issue of a team being their own worst enemy. Turnovers, and bad fouls down the stretch doom the Bruins, in a 85-73 loss to Indiana State.
Not that losing to the Sycamores is a bad loss, mind you. But this is a game the Bruins lost as much as Indiana State won.
Belmont’s sloppy play with the ball was felt immediately. The Bruins turned the ball 11 times in the first half, and three more in the first four minutes of the second half. Belmont’s 18 turnovers for the game led to 20 ISU points, many of which were easy transition buckets. The Bruins allowed the Sycamores to shoot 49% from the floor, but some of that falls on the offensive turnovers, not their defensive intensity.
The game’s start had the feel of the previous matchup in Nashville. Early turnovers, and big three’s gave ISU an early 19-11 lead. But unlike the first matchup, the Bruins were able to close the gap quickly, going a a 17-5 run sparked by back-to-back three’s from Spencer Turner. Belmont would lead by as much as four late in the half, before a late mini-run gave the Sycamores a two-point half time lead.
The even play continued for the first 12 minutes of the second half. Indiana State led 61-58 coming out of the under eight media timeout, but would go on a slow 7-0 run over the next three minutes fueled by five free-throws. From there, Indiana State kept attacking the Bruins interior, leading to 16 second half fouls against the Bruins. Belmont just four the entire first half. Belmont was never really able to challenge down the stretch, forcing just five empty possessions in the final six minutes.
If you take out the empty possessions, Belmont played well on offense, as has been their calling card all season. Craig Bradshaw had one of his better games of the year, scoring a team-high 18 points on 6-13 shooting, including some key second half layups to keep the Bruins close. It was clear the Sycamores defense was honed in on J.J. Mann, who didn’t get his first points until the final four minutes of the first half, and was held to just six points and six shots from the field. Belmont struggled to hit three’s in the second half, exasperating their inability to pull back close.
While it may not look that way on the stat sheet, the Bruins defense was more solid than they’ve been in the past two weeks or so. Indiana State had success in the early minutes shooting over the Bruins 3-2 zone, but Belmont did a much better job of closing out on shooters in the second half, as the Sycamores shot just 1-7 from the behind the arc in the second 20 minutes. The interior defense, a known issue for the Bruins, struggled at times when the ISU offense was playing patiently, which happened much more in the second half.