GAME NOTES: Fresh off their first-ever loss in Ohio Valley Conference action, the Belmont Bruins return to action to face the Austin Peay Governors at the Dunn Center on Saturday.
This will be the 41st meeting between these schools on the hardwood, but the first as members of the OVC. APSU owns a 30-10 all-time series edge despite the Bruins coming out of the last three encounters victorious.
Belmont began its first tour of the OVC with 10 consecutive victories, most of which in convincing fashion, before being defeated, 79-74, by Murray State on Thursday night. The loss dropped the Bruins to a 19-5 overall record, but they still have the best record in conference action. Coach Rick Byrd's squad has produced its remarkable season with the help of excellent guard play. The tandem of Ian Clark and Kerron Johnson is considered one of the nation's top backcourts. Clark is the second leading scorer in the conference, averaging 19 ppg on 58 percent shooting from the floor that also included 52 percent (80- of-155) from beyond the arc. Johnson averages 13.6 ppg and 4.6 apg. His aggressive play has already earned him 149 attempts from the free-throw line.
Clark paced Belmont with 22 points in the team's loss at Murray State. Blake Jenkins and Johnson contributed 12 points apiece, while J.J. Mann scored 10 points in the loss. The Bruins nearly pulled off a miraculous comeback, as they managed to tie the score up after trailing, 67-53, with 4:59 left in regulation. MSU's Isaiah Canaan quickly broke the tie with a make from beyond the arc and Clark lost control of the ball on Belmont's next possession. Despite the loss, Belmont shot 52 percent from the field, including 64 percent in the second half. The Bruins have outscored their opposition by an average of 13.4 points per game this season as they are the only team to rank in the top three in the OVC in both scoring offense (77.4) and defense (64.0).
APSU comes into this one desperate for a win, as its 88-82 overtime loss to Tennessee State on Thursday marked its seventh consecutive loss and lessened it to a 5-19 overall record. The Governors have now falling in overtime in two consecutive games and have lost 15 of their last 16. APSU will employ the services of Travis Betran (17.7 ppg, 3.0 apg), Anthony Campbell (14.3 ppg, 5.0 rpg), and Will Triggs (12.3 ppg, 5.2 rpg) when they host the first-place Bruins.
The the Govs' loss to the Tigers, Jerome Clyburn scored 28 points to lead all scorers. Triggs had double-double with 18 points and 11 rebounds, while Campbell supplied 15 points and eight boards. Triggs also contributed five assists and four steals in the setback as APSU failed to take advantage of its chances at the free-throw line, shooting 17-of-27 compared to 22-of-26 for the TSU. The Governors are in the top half of the conference in scoring with 70.9 ppg, but they are dead last on the defensive end with an allowed average of 75.9 ppg.
Belmont cannot expect to stroll into the Dunn Center and walk away with an easy win. APSU recently took the same Murray State team that downed Belmont into overtime. The Bruins will suffer their second straight loss if they are not careful against the hungry Governors.