From Belmont Athletics –
NASHVILLE, Tenn. – – Behind 26 points and 14 rebounds from senior All-America candidate Evan Bradds(Jamestown, Ohio), Belmont University men’s basketball defeated Western Kentucky, 90-69, Saturday night.
The Bruins, coming off an uncharacteristic 9-for-41 3-point shooting performance Tuesday night at Vanderbilt, went a more customary 16-for-34 from long distance on the evening.
And the traditional spirited student section – on hand for First on the Floor and CODE BLUE – made its presence felt from the opening tip.
Early on, the visiting Hilltoppers showcased their talent and versatility under first year head coach Rick Stansbury.
After a 3-pointer from junior Austin Luke (Rowlett, Texas) gave the Bruins a 10-9 lead, Western Kentucky scored 12 straight points over a four-minute span, taking a 21-10 advantage on a basket from Damari Parris.
But the Bruins quickly stabilized, as a 3-pointer from sophomore Kevin McClain (Jennings, Fla.) and five more points from Luke closed the margin to 23-18.
Western Kentucky answered with baskets from Que Johnson and Junior Lomomba before Belmont closed on a 12-5 run.
An electifying baseline slam from sophomore Dylan Windler (Indianapolis, Ind.) and a driving basket from Bradds sent Belmont to the locker room up three, 42-39.
Belmont shot 52 percent from the field in the opening 20 minutes – including 8-for-19 from 3-point distance. The Bruins also forced nine Hilltopper turnovers.
Early second half 3-pointers from Luke and Bradds helped the Bruins maintain a 50-46 lead with 16:48 remaining.
Triples from McClain and Smith, followed by another trademark post move from Bradds, increased the lead to 10, 58-48, with 14:50 to go, and prompted a Western Kentucky timeout.
And though the Hilltoppers closed to 59-52 on a Junior Lomomba basket, from there, Smith caught fire. Three consecutive triples in a two-minute span pushed the Bruin lead to 75-60 with 7:30 left.
More active Belmont defense sparked transition scoring opportunities, including a teardrop banker from senior Taylor Barnette (Lexington, Ky.).
A Bradds layin made the score 83-63 with 4:19 to go.
All told, Belmont shot 58 percent (36-for-62) from the field – including 19-for-29 in the second half. The Bruins handed out 24 assists on 36 made field goals, and out-rebounded the Hilltoppers by nine after intermission.
Bradds led three Bruins in double figures with 26 points. Smith added a career-high 18, while Luke chipped in 16 points and nine assists.
Justin Johnson led Western Kentucky (2-1) with 17 points.
Belmont (1-1) returns to action Monday, Nov. 21 vs. Florida in Tampa. Tip-off is set for 7 p.m. ET/6 p.m. CT from Amalie Arena.
The game will be broadcast on SEC Network and WatchESPN. The live play-by-play of Voice of the Bruins Kevin Ingram can be heard on the Bruin Sports Network.
NOTES: Belmont has won 13 consecutive home openers … Belmont is 79-5 in its last 84 games at the Curb Event Center … Bradds, who provided 16 points and 10 rebounds in the second half, has 22 career double doubles … With 26 points, Bradds moves within three points of Kerron Johnson (’13) for seventh on the Bruins’ NCAA Division I era career scoring list … Belmont outscored Western Kentucky, 31-15, off the bench … Belmont outscored Western Kentucky, 17-8, in points off turnovers … Luke came within one assist of his second career double double … Talented Western Kentucky power forward Justin Johnson is clearly expanding his game; he entered the game with three career 3-pointers and went 3-for-4 from behind the arc … Belmont has won four consecutive games in the series … The Bruins and Hilltoppers will play next season in Bowling Green.