Belmont scored the first 15 points of the game and then held on for a 69-60 victory over Tennessee State on Monday at the Curb Events Center.
Five different Bruins scored in the 15-0 run over the opening 5:15. Scott Saunders capped that stretch with a pair of layups 29 seconds apart.
TSU cut the deficit to as few as four points in the first half and six in the second half but never got even. It’s pressure defense forced 21 turnovers (12 in the second half), nearly six more than Belmont’s average coming into the contest.
“I think TSU made us a better basketball team (Monday) night,” Belmont coach Rick Byrd said. “They played with tremendous effort and purpose, and you'd be hard pressed to find another team anywhere that can pressure full court as well as they did. … I'm very proud of how our team hung tough and earned the victory.”
A 3-pointer by Tigers’ guard Jeremiah Crutcher with 11:06 remaining made it 47-41. Belmont’s Brandon Baker answered with a 3-pointer of his own 17 seconds later. It was the third of four second-half 3-pointers for the Bruins, who made just one of 10 in the first 20 minutes.
Kerron Johnson led Belmont with 14 points and five assists. Saunders added 13 points and Jon House had 11. Saunders finished with eight points and a game-high 10 rebounds.
Martell Buie led TSU with eight points in 18 minutes off the bench. Three starters – Crutcher, Josh Sain and Lonnie Funderburke – all had seven.