February 3, 2011

Men's Basketball Defeats Jacksonville

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - - Behind career games from sophomore Kerron Johnson (Huntsville, Ala.) and junior Scott Saunders (New Orleans, La.), Belmont men's basketball defeated Jacksonville, 76-70, Thursday night.

For the seventh time this season, the Bruins never trailed in victory. But unlike the previous six, this would be a hotly-contested game throughout.

Four early points from junior Mick Hedgepeth (Crossville, Ala.) and a straight-on three-point field goal from sophomore Trevor Noack (Keller, Texas) lifted Belmont to an early 7-4 lead.

Strong Bruin defense early and balanced scoring increased the lead. Consecutive baskets from sophomore Brandon Baker (Milford, Ohio), junior Drew Hanlen (St. Louis, Mo.) and Saunders gave Belmont a 19-8 lead with 10:38 left in the half.

Following an Ayron Hardy basket, sophomore Ian Clark (Memphis, Tenn.) sank a baseline three-pointer to stretch the margin to 22-10.

Jacksonville used consecutive three-pointers from Tevin Galvin and Keith McDougald and its pressure defense to inch closer. After Travis Cohn got the Dolphins within 29-25, Johnson answered with several big plays - two free throws, a steal on the inbounds pass, and an assist to Clark for another three-pointer - to push the Bruins back to a 34-25 lead.

Then after a Galvin basket, Johnson drove and set up Saunders for an easy two and a 36-27 halftime lead.

Belmont shot 46 percent (15-for-33) in the opening 20 minutes - including 3-for-6 from three-point distance. The Bruins outrbounded the Dolphins by nine, 23-14, and held the hosts to 37 percent shooting in the first half.

Hedgepeth again led the Bruin offensive attack to open the second half, providing four points to give Belmont a 42-31 edge with 18:07 left.

But a McDougald three-pointer capped a quick 10-2 Jacksonville spurt to close the margin to 44-41 with 16:11 remaining.

After the Dolphins got within 50-48 on two Delwan Graham free throws, Johnson again sparked a Belmont reply. Johnson assisted senior Jon House (Guelph, Ont., Canada) for a layin and then followed with a strong conventional three-point play at the rim to punctuate a 9-0 Bruin run to make the score 59-48 with 8:15 left.

The teams proceeded to trade scores for several minutes before one Russell Powell free throw and a layin from McDougald got Jacksonville within 70-67 with 1:08 left.

After using clock, Belmont got the ball to Johnson, who would be fouled by Chris Davis while driving the lane. Johnson proceeded to make both ends of a one-and-one free throw opportunity to give the Bruins a 72-67 lead with 37 seconds left.

Galvin would then miss a baseline three-pointer and the Bruins claimed the defensive rebound.

Johnson and Clark combined on 4-for-4 free throw shooting in the final 14 seconds to secure the victory.

All told, Belmont shot 50 percent (29-for-58) for the game - including 56 percent in the second half. The Bruins forced 17 Dolphin turnovers.

Johnson led four Bruins in double figures with a career-high tying with 15 points. He added five assists and four steals. Hedgepeth scored 14 points and Clark added 12. Saunders supplied his third career double-double with 11 points and 11 rebounds.

McDougald led Jacksonville (14-7, 8-4 Atlantic Sun) with 15 points.

Belmont (21-4, 13-1 Atlantic Sun) returns to action Saturday at North Florida. Tip-off is set for 6pm CT.

The live play-by-play of Voice of the Bruins Kevin Ingram can be heard on the Bruin Sports Network. Live video streaming will be provided via ASun.TV.