Record-Tying Hot Hand for Smith, Belmont Wins

Thursday night, Belmont (8-4, 2-0) smoked UT Martin (11-7, 1-2) out of the Curb Events Center thanks to scorching shooting from senior Nick Smith.

Smith made seven first half three-pointers, each coaxing a more joyous reaction from the Bruin bench.

“They run a little bit of a matchup zone,” said Nick Smith.  “They were really, really focused on Evan (Bradds), so my teammates did a really good job of finding me for open shots.”

The humble Smith finished with 30 points, 10-13 from deep.  Both his three-point made shots and total points were career highs.

The ten made triples tied a Curb Events Center building record, set by Andy Wicke in 2007.

Smith’s success separated Belmont early, but UT Martin did not wilt.

An early 15-4 run by Belmont housed Smith’s first two makes.

Despite the mammoth 54-35 halftime score, the visiting Skyhawks managed to chop the lead to nine points two separate times late.

Defense Needed

As the 2016 OVC Tournament Finalists fell down big early, the only pathway back was a commitment to defense.

Matthew Butler was fiery on defense.  He inspired greater effort from teammate Malik London and Fatodd Lewis.  Still Butler missed several key shots late in the second half.  He tends to take difficult shots in high pressure moments.

London’s early play was exceptional.  For a few first half possessions London was able to deny Bradds.

Evan Bradds had trouble with London early.  London blocked Bradds first try and altered his second.   Bradds appeared moderately frustrated early, but dished out four assists unselfishly.

“They are sending somebody some way at him,” said Belmont Head Coach Rick Byrd.  “In the first half he kicked it back out to Taylor (Barnette), who made a three.

The Skyhawk team defense was vibrant, committed.

One of the most deflating defensive possessions occurred late in the first half.

The Skyhawks defended for 20 seconds, and forced the ball to switch sides twice.  Finally Dylan Windler buried a challenged three from the corner.

Ultimately, the Skyhawks failed to completely erase the margin.

Chandler Rowe was checking Taylor Barnette early.  It was the result of a matchup-zone.

“Maybe we are a good team to play against the matchup-zone because we play four guys out,” said Coach Byrd.

Barnette hit his first triple.  And his second.  He missed a leaner from 10′.

Barnette finished with 8 pts (3-11), but beamed discussing Smith’s individual performance.

“As a teammate it is fun to  see anybody on your team just have an unbelievable night,” said Barnette.  “That is what being on a team is about.  You root for each other.  When a guy is having a special night like that you celebrate with them.”

Smith’s hottest run was midway through the first half.  He hit on three straight possessions (7:53, 7:16, 6:44) and the margin ballooned from 7 to 16.

The visiting Skyhawks left with their second OVC loss.  They stay in Nashville to play Tennessee State Saturday night.

Jacolby Mobley sustained a mild right ankle injury.  He left the game, but did return for the final minutes.

Did you know, has taken 89.1% of his shots outside the arc?     To date Smith has only attempted nine 2’s attempted all season.

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