Heartbreak in Seattle

Heartbreak in Seattle

SEATTLE - - Belmont University men's basketball nearly took down another major conference program, but dropped an 86-82 decision at Washington Friday night.

Belmont, which took down Marquette to open the campaign two seasons ago, returned to the Emerald City where eight years prior Bruin standouts Ian Clark and Kerron Johnson began their careers.

The Bruins held Washington without a field goal for the first 5:03 of the game in building a 7-1 lead.

A thunderous slam by junior Dylan Windler (Indianapolis, Ind.) pushed the margin to 11-6 before the hosts got their footing.

Two David Crisp free throws pushed the Huskies ahead, 22-17, before freshman Nick Hopkins (Fayetteville, Tenn.) sparked a Belmont response.

Consecutive 3-pointers in a 33 second span gave the Bruins a 23-22 lead with 7:14 left in the half.

Behind Hopkins and junior Mack Mercer (Plymouth, Ind.), Belmont scored nine of the final 13 points of the half in taking a 43-35 halftime lead.

After a cold start, Belmont shot 47 percent (16-for-34) in the opening 20 minutes - including six 3-pointers.

Hopkins had 14 firsf half points, while Windler nearly had a doube-double in the opening 20 minutes.

A Windler layin opened the second half scoring, as the Bruins remained purposeful and in control.

Both teams dealt with foul difficulty, as junior Kevin McClain (Jennings, Fla.) and Washington forward Noah Dickerson were forced to keep their warmup jerseys close at hand.

After Washington inched within 54-50, consecutive baskets from Windler and senior Amanze Egekeze (Lake in the Hills, Ill.) stretched the lead back to eight, 58-50, with 11:03 remaining.

Another Hopkins' 3-pointer, and scores from Egekeze and Mercer - the latter of which fouled Dickerson out of the game - gave Belmont a 67-58 advantage.

Each team endured a brief dry spell before sophomore Michael Benkert (Greenwood, Ind.) sparked a Bruin fast break where senior Austin Luke (Rowlett, Texas) found Hopkins for a corner 3-pointer and a 70-61 Belmont lead with 5:39 left.

That is when Jaylen Nowell almost single-handedly began a Washington push.

Four quick points got the Huskies within 72-69 with 3:39 remaining.

Then out of the under-four media timeout, following a Nowell missed free throw, Carlos Johnson scored an offensive rebound basket to close the margin to one.

Luke and Johnson exchanged driving baskets, before a scramble play-second chance opportunity fell in the waiting hands of Nowell, who sank a deep 3-pointer to give the Huskies a 76-74 lead with 2:24 remaining.

McClain answered right back for Belmont, rimming home a baseline 3-pointer to put the Bruins back up one.

But Nowell continued his offensive run, spinning and sinking a long, contested 2-pointer to give Washington a 78-77 edge with 1:38 to go.

The next Bruin possession resulted in a lengthy official review, whereby Belmont regained possession and a fresh shot clock.

Windler then delivered a tough baby hook inside to give the Bruins a 79-78 lead with 52 seconds left.

Washington was unquestionably going to Nowell, who drove right and eluded two Bruin defenders to score at the rim with 32 seconds remaining.

Trailing by one and with the shot clock essentially in sync with the game clock, Luke elected to race into the front court and attempt a quick-hitting 3-pointer.

It rimmed off and Washington secured the rebound.

David Crisp added two free throws with 22 seconds left to push the margin to 82-79.

Belmont proceeded to execute a Coach Byrd play to perfection, freeing McClain for an easy two with 14 seconds remaining.

Following a Belmont timeout, the Bruins pressed for a steal on the Washington inbounds play, but the Huskies maintained possession before being fouled.

Nowell's two free throws with eight seconds left bumped the margin back to three.

The Huskies called timeout and elected to foul before Belmont could attempt a game-tying 3-point shot.

With four seconds left, Luke made the first of two free throws to close the margin to two. He proceeded to intentionally miss the second free throw in hopes of Belmont securing an offensive rebound and one final attempt to tie or win.

Washington collected the rebound, and Matisse Thybulle's two free throws with three seconds left secured the result.

It was a hard result to shoulder, as Belmont led for nearly 34 minutes of the game.

All told, Belmont shot 49 percent (32-for-65) from the field - including 10-for-31 from 3-point distance.

The Bruins had 20 assists and grabbed nine offensive rebounds.

Hopkins led four Bruins in double figures with 22 points. Windler recorded his fourth double-double with 18 points and 11 rebounds, while Egekeze had 17. McClain scored 11.

Nowell led Washington (1-0) with 32 points.

Belmont returns to game action Monday, Nov. 13 vs. Vanderbilt. Tip-off is set for 6:30 p.m. CT. The game will be broadcast on Facebook Live via Stadium, OVC Digital Network and the Bruin Sports Network.

NOTES: Belmont led virtually every statistical category: points in the paint (44-34), points of turnovers (16-14), second chance points (13-9), fast break points (9-4) and bench points (31-16) ... Hopkins' 22 points were one more than Ian Clark's 21 points in victory at Alaska Airlines Arena nearly eight years to the day ... Windler and Egekeze each added four assists .. Hopkins and Caleb Hollander made the collegiate debuts.