Belmont punches its ticket to the NCAA Tournament with a  76-75 win over Murray State in the OVC championship
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Belmont punches its ticket to the NCAA Tournament with a 76-75 win over Murray State in the OVC championship

For the first time since 2015 the Bruins have won the Ohio Valley Conference Tournament after defeating Murray State 76-75 in an absolute nailbiter on Saturday night in Evansville, Indiana. 

“If anyone changed the channel on this one, shame on them because I felt that it was worth watching,” said first year head coach Casey Alexander. “They made big plays, we made big plays and I’m glad we had the last good possession.” 

The Bruins won the game on a classic Rick Byrd play which involved a backdoor pass and a reverse layup. It was perfectly executed with two second left giving Belmont the lead and the win. 

“With three in a row and Murray winning the last two this is the 2019-2020 team,” said Alexander. “They won a championship and that’s the best we could do.” 

Men's Basketball Wins the OVC Tournament Championship

Nick Muszynski was instrumental in the Bruins win and was named the tournament MVP after scoring 25 points and eight rebounds while having four personal fouls. 

In the 2019 final, Muszynkski was unable to play due to injury so this moment meant so much more. 

“Last year was bad, very agonizing,” said Muszynski. “But this game was about us and them. We have a lot of respect for them and their program.”

Along with Musznyski, teammates Grayson Murphy and Adam Kunkel were named to the OVC All-Tournament team. 

The game never lacked drama as Belmont never truly had a sizable lead. Muszkynski and Kunkel carried the team on their shoulders in the first half with 14 points and 10 points respectively. 

But in the final four minutes of the half, the Racers went on an 11-5 run which gave Murray a 28-26 lead. But a Muszynski layup and a Kunkel three helped give the Bruins a 33-32 lead at halftime. 

Though Kunkel and Muszynksi had a stellar first half, the team only combined for 9 points. But that changed in the second half as Scanlon who only had 3 points in the first 20 minutes would help the Bruins go on a 12-1 run where he scored 8 points. 

With 13 minutes left, the Bruins had built themselves a 51-46 lead. But Murray State never stayed down as Tevin Brown and Demond Robinson scored 17 points and 14 points respectively. 

At some points, the Racers put on a dunk contest for fans as they continued to dominate in the paint. 

The Bruins got into foul trouble when Muszynkski picked up his fourth foul with nine minutes to go and didn’t come back in until there were about four minutes to go. 

At this point the Bruins were picking up offensive fouls which gave the Racers more and more momentum. Murray led 73-69 with under three minutes to go. 

Back-to-back layups and a free throw from Muszynki gave Belmont a 74-73 lead with 1:26 to go in the game. 

“Moose really dictated the game on the offensive end for us from start to finish,” said Alexander. 

With just under a minute to go, Murphy rebounded a missed Racers three but overthrew a pass to Muszynksi in Belmont’s offense zone which gave Murray the ball with just under 40 seconds. 

Murray State fouled Adam Kunkel with 19 seconds to and at this point, it looked like the Bruins had the win. But Kunkel missed his first free throw which was rebounded by Murray State. 

Micahel Benkert then fouled Brown with 9 seconds to go and he hit both of his free throws to give the Racers a 75-74 lead. 

Alexander called a timeout as soon as the Bruins got the ball bringing them to the offensive side of the court. There were then back-to-back timeouts called by Belmont and then Murray State which built more tension then possibly imagined. 

This is where the Bruins called the Byrd backdoor play to Scanlon who gave Belmont a 76-75 lead. 

“It’s a play that we practice all the time,” said Scanlon. “It was second nature and I knew it was going to be there and it was just a matter of finishing the play.” 

Murray State inbound the ball with two seconds to go but never got a shot off and the Bruins stormed the court with nothing but pure joy. 

“I can’t even describe in words it feels so special to be able to do it with Scanlon and Seth and all my teammates,” said Benkert. 

With the conference tournament win, the Bruins are headed to the NCAA Tournament for a second straight year. 

The Bruins now have a week to wait until Selection Sunday where they will find out where and who they will play at the big dance.

“Just to be able to do it at a program like Belmont,” said Benkert. “To leave a legacy like this is absolutely unbelievable.”

Photos by Bronte Lebo.

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