Kerron Johnson had a game-high 19 points in addition to five rebounds and five assists as Belmont, the No. 1 seed, advanced to Friday’s Atlantic Sun Conference tournament semifinals with a 76-62 victory over Jacksonville on Wednesday at Macon, Ga.
Mick Hedgepeth’s layup 9:51 into the contest started an 18-3 run that put the Bruins (25-7) ahead to stay. Eight different players scored during that stretch, which included seven free throws and ended with Reece Chamberlain’s 3-pointer (his only points of the contest) that made it 36-22 with just under four minutes to play in the first half.
Prior to that, there were three lead changes. Jacksonville (8-22) twice closed to within seven points during the second half, the last time with 5:18 remaining (64-57).
Scott Saunders added 16 points and eight rebounds, and Hedgepeth chipped in 13 points, four rebounds and three blocked shots for Belmont, which was without the conference’s defensive player of the year Ian Clark, who was injured.
Clark, a junior who had started every game of his college career, complained of abdominal pain during pregame warm-ups and ultimately was held out. Conversely, Johnson and Blake Jenkins (five points, seven rebounds) both returned after having missed the previous contest with an injury.
Aloys Cabell led Jacksonville, which had won four of its previous six, with 17 points.
Belmont plays either East Tennessee State or North Florida 5 p.m. (CST) Friday for a spot in the tournament championship contest.
• Mercer 61, Lipscomb 53: Malcolm Smith scored his team’s first seven points and the Bison kept pace for more than 36 minutes but before they were outgunned in the closing minutes and eliminated in the A-Sun quarterfinals.
Deonte Alexander made a jumpshot that got Lipscomb (13-18) within one, 45-44, with 3:30 to play. The Bison were outscored 18-9 from that point to the finish.
Zavion Williams scored seven of those final nine points and finished with a team-high 17. Jacob Arnett, one of only two reserves who played for Lipscomb (redshirt-freshman Damarius Smith and freshman Marvin Williams were suspended by coach Scott Sanderson), scored 11 and Smith added 10.
The score was tied 29-29 at halftime and three more times, the last at 37-37, in the opening minutes of the second half. Mercer (22-10) went ahead to stay with consecutive baskets by Travis Smith and Jakob Gollon.
Gollon led all scorers with 19 points, and Smith added 11 points and eight rebounds off the bench.