At least two times in the second half alone, I watched players dive into the water cooler… (literally) and another time into the EKU baseline band. If that wasn’t entertaining enough, EKU and Belmont then went on to provide OVC basketball viewers with a great game.
I hesitate when saying from start to finish because during the middle of the second half EKU’s defense shut down one of the most potent offenses in the OVC. The Colonels went on a 15-5 run in the middle of the 2nd period that created a cushion that the Bruins shooting could not overcome. The beginning of that run started the same way that Belmont opened up the game, with an unforced turnover.
The turnover problem showed up for the bruins as the 20 possessions they tossed away was their highest total since their last loss against Indiana St. This is not the Belmont team I have come accustom to as they show signs of an undisciplined team. This was not the doing of an inexperienced point guard or a sudden shift in playing styles. This was due to what could be deemed as carelessness, lack of spacing awareness or forgetting that defenders were also on the court.
Not to take anything away from EKU, I have to mention that as a unit they looked energized on defense. If you take away the free throws the Bruins received from second chance opportunities, then the tape would show they struggled to score easy points. Overall they did a solid job switching like size screens, and not conceding a ton of open looks from deep. As a defense they had stretches of dominance and did not allow Belmont to make any well timed threes. The Colonels seemed to fluster Belmont’s precision attack by disrupting passing lanes and swarming their ball handlers. A sudden gust of wind or obviously a hand in your line of sight can disrupt even the best of snipers.
In a game where the POY candidates went a combined 6 of 24, it was a battle of the “others” to determine the outcome. The high energy play of Eric Stutz jumped out at me as he made a few plays that showed the determination of the Colonels. While I know it’s odd to call the fourth leading scorer and a big with 3 rebound’s the key to a win, I must say I whole heartedly believe in that truth. Constantly having to hedge ball screens then sprint to the paint only to rinse and repeat can be taxing for anybody that is 6’8. Consider the fact that he does that on both offense and defense given the systems of both teams. Not convinced by now? Then hopefully telling you he was the guy that crashed into the baseline band is enough to have you consider it.
There is a saying in basketball that 3 point shooting is a great equalizer. If you couple the 20 turnovers with the four second half threes made by Belmont, then it is easy to see how the game didn’t end in a tie. Belmont suffered its first loss, but will have a VERY good chance to regroup against a lowly TSU team.
The Colonels on the other hand will need to get over this win quickly as it could be a mistake to overlook an up and down Jacksonville State team. Overall, both teams competed hard and I would not be surprised to see either team play on March 8th.
P.S. Stutz was also their assist leader.
Be sure to check out our Team Report from this game.