Belmont (22-8) at Jacksonville State (10-20)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, March 1, 5:30 p.m. (ET)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Pete Mathews Coliseum (5,500) -- Jacksonville, Alabama. Television: None. Home Record: Belmont 12-1, JSU 7-5. Away Record: Belmont 8-7, JSU 2-14. Neutral Record: Belmont 2-0, JSU 1-1. Conference Record: Belmont 13-2, JSU 4-11. Series Record: Belmont leads, 5-3.
GAME NOTES: In the final regular-season game for both clubs, the streaking Belmont Bruins take to the road to battle the reeling Jacksonville State Gamecocks, in Ohio Valley Conference action on Saturday evening at Pete Mathews Coliseum.
Belmont has won five straight and 10 of its last 11 games overall. They downed SIUE on Wednesday night, 94-75 on the road. The Bruins have clinched the East Division title and are still battling West Division champion Murray State for the regular-season title and the top seed in the upcoming conference tournament.
JSU has lost seven in a row, including to Tennessee Tech on the road last Saturday, 69-57. The Gamecocks sit in fifth place in the East, and have been eliminated from postseason play.
This marks the ninth meeting between Belmont and Jacksonville State all-time. The Bruins hold a 5-3 lead in the series, which dates back to December of 2000. The two teams met four times as members of the Atlantic Sun Conference (2001-03). Belmont won both encounters last year and the only other meeting this season, a 78-67 decision at home on Jan. 2.
J.J. Mann scored a game-high 25 points, as Belmont made easy work of the SIU Edwardsville Cougars the last time out. Evan Bradds had 20 points on 10-of-11 shooting for the Bruins, who extended their winning streak to five games. Reece Chamberlain netted 18 points and handed out nine assists, and Nick Smith chipped in 11 points in 11 minutes off the bench.
On the season, the Bruins are shooting an impressive 50.2 percent from the field, which ranks second in the country. The efficient shooting has led them to the second-best scoring average in the OVC (80.4 ppg). Mann (18.4 ppg) and Craig Bradshaw (15.7 ppg) lead the way, with Mann ranking fifth in the league in scoring. Providing added scoring depth are Reece Chamberlain (11.3 ppg, 5.4 apg) and Drew Windler (10.1 ppg), although the former makes more of an impact as a passer, ranking fourth in the OVC in assists.
Brian Williams scored 13 points to lead the Gamecocks in their recent loss to Tennessee Tech. The Golden Eagles shot an impressive 51.6 percent from the field in the first half. Trailing by five early in the frame, Tech went on a 14-2 run to take control of the game and went into halftime with a 37-22 advantage. JSU struggled from the floor in the opening period, hitting just 34.5 percent of its field goal tries, including a meager 2-of-10 from beyond the arc and never made a run after halftime.
Hampered by a sprained ankle recently, Williams (11.0 ppg) is one of only two double-digit scorers on the roster. That puts a lot of pressure on Rackley (13.2 ppg), who already struggles to score with any degree of efficiency. He is connecting on just under 40 percent of his total shots. With so few offensive options, the Gamecocks are last in the OVC in scoring (65.4 ppg). However, they are stingy at the defensive end, holding teams to a league-best 70 ppg.
The Bruins are clearly the better team in this matchup, and they will use their multitude of offensive weapons to end the regular season with a road victory.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Belmont 77, Jacksonville State 63
03/01 10:32:34 ET