NASHVILLE, Tenn. - - Senior All-America candidate Dylan Windler (Indianapolis, Ind.) had 34 points and 11 rebounds as Belmont University men's basketball used a strong second half to defeat Middle Tennessee, 92-73, Monday night.
The Bruins limited the Blue Raiders to 6-for-29 shooting and forced 14 turnovers in the second half in outscoring the visitors 46-19 after halftime.
In a meeting of the two winningest programs in the state of Tennessee this decade, Middle Tennessee exhibited tremendous confidence early in its first road game of 2018-19.
Seven early points from Donovan Sims gave Middle Tennessee an 11-4 lead.
After baskets from Windler and freshman Nick Muszynski (Pickerington, Ohio) stabilized things for Belmont, Blue Raider forward Karl Gamble put on a jump-shooting display.
In a succession of long two-point baskets, Gamble scored 15 points during a five-minute stretch midway through the first half as Middle Tennessee led by as many as 11.
Efficient offensive production from Windler and Muszynski enabled Belmont to withstand Gamble's flurry.
A deep 3-pointer from freshman Grayson Murphy (Thompson's Station, Tenn.) got the Bruins with 36-33 at the 7:00 mark.
Yet when Belmont was able to force Blue Raider field goal misses, the visitors took advantage of several long rebounds for second chance points.
A putback basket from Anthony Crump stretched the Middle Tennessee lead back to 47-40 with 3:52 left in the half.
Middle Tennessee led 54-46 at halftime.
Belmont shot 52 percent (17-for-33) from the field in the opening 20 minutes – including 5-for-14 from 3-point distance.
Middle Tennessee shot 57 percent in the first half, but interestingly only 16 of its 54 points were in the paint.
Windler led Belmont with 15 first half points.
The second 20 minutes were a completely different narrative; the Bruins were the aggressors and dictated the terms from the opening possession of the second half.
A Murphy steal and hit-ahead assist to Windler for a layin initiated an inspired stretch of play.
Belmont earned defensive stops on Middle Tennessee's first 11 possessions of the second half, and turned it into a 16-0 run.
Windler scored eight points during the spurt as the Bruins seized a 62-54 lead with 14:00 left.
And though the Blue Raiders thrice would close within seven points thereafter, Belmont's purposeful defense and rebounding set the tone for the remainder of the game.
Several hustle plays in transition defense thwarted seemingly easy Middle Tennessee scoring opportunities, including one acrobatic McClain blocked shot on an Antonio Green layin attempt.
Consecutive Murphy driving baskets pushed Belmont's lead to 73-62 with 8:29 remaining.
Windler would punctuate the 10-0 run on a twisting baseline basket off a timely McClain feed.
Belmont also worked into the bonus midway through the second half, with Windler's determined drives earning free throws.
All told, Belmont shot 54 percent (35-for-65) from the field – including 6-for-19 from 3-point distance.
Belmont handed out 21 assists on 35 made field goals, gathering 10 steals and blocking six Middle Tennessee shots.
Windler led four Bruins in double figures with 34 points. Muszynski added 18 points, while Murphy had another remarkable stat line of 15 points, seven rebounds, eight assists and five steals.
McClain added 10 points and six assists.
Gamble led Middle Tennessee (2-1) with 20 points.
Belmont (2-0) returns to game action Thursday, Nov. 15 at Lipscomb. Tip-off is set for 6:30 p.m. CT. The game will be broadcast on ESPN+. The live play-by-play of Voice of the Bruins Kevin Ingram can be heard on the Bruin Sports Network. In-game updates will be available via Twitter @BelmontMBB.
NOTES: Belmont has won nine of the last 12 meetings vs. Middle Tennessee … Windler recorded his 19th career double-double … He came within four points of his career-high in points (38, vs. Morehead State, 2/17/18) … Junior Seth Adelsperger made two timely free throws during Belmont's second half run … Muszynski's 16 field goals in his first two collegiate games represent the most by any Belmont freshman in the NCAA Division I era … Freshman Derek Sabin scored his first two points as a Bruin on his birthday … Garrett Suedekum and Michael Mayernick made their first appearances in a Belmont uniform.