Bruins upset Racers for NCAA Tournament bid

Belmont%27s+Reece+Chamberlain+goes+in+for+the+layup+during+the+Panthers%27+97-64+loss+to+the+Belmont+Bruins+in+round+two+of+the+Ohio+Valley+Conference+Tournament+on+Thursday+at+Municipal+Auditorium+in+Nashville%2C+Tenn.++The+Bruins+would+go+on+to+beat+Murray+State+88-87+on+Saturday+to+win+the+OVC+tournament+and+secure+a+spot+in+the+NCAA+tournament.
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Bruins upset Racers for NCAA Tournament bid

Belmont's Reece Chamberlain goes in for the layup during the Panthers' 97-64 loss to the Belmont Bruins in round two of the Ohio Valley Conference Tournament on Thursday at Municipal Auditorium in Nashville, Tenn.  The Bruins would go on to beat Murray State 88-87 on Saturday to win the OVC tournament and secure a spot in the NCAA tournament.

Belmont's Reece Chamberlain goes in for the layup during the Panthers' 97-64 loss to the Belmont Bruins in round two of the Ohio Valley Conference Tournament on Thursday at Municipal Auditorium in Nashville, Tenn. The Bruins would go on to beat Murray State 88-87 on Saturday to win the OVC tournament and secure a spot in the NCAA tournament.

Jason Howell

Belmont's Reece Chamberlain goes in for the layup during the Panthers' 97-64 loss to the Belmont Bruins in round two of the Ohio Valley Conference Tournament on Thursday at Municipal Auditorium in Nashville, Tenn. The Bruins would go on to beat Murray State 88-87 on Saturday to win the OVC tournament and secure a spot in the NCAA tournament.

Jason Howell

Jason Howell

Belmont's Reece Chamberlain goes in for the layup during the Panthers' 97-64 loss to the Belmont Bruins in round two of the Ohio Valley Conference Tournament on Thursday at Municipal Auditorium in Nashville, Tenn. The Bruins would go on to beat Murray State 88-87 on Saturday to win the OVC tournament and secure a spot in the NCAA tournament.

Blake Nash, Staff Reporter

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A three pointer by Taylor Barnette with 3.2 seconds left in Saturday’s Ohio Valley Conference Tournament championship game sent Belmont to their seventh NCAA tournament berth in school history, as they defeated No. 1 seeded Murray State 88-87 in Nashville.

Barnette, a sophomore, hit an off-balance shot to give the Bruins the lead late, as Belmont coach Rick Byrd called timeout. On the in-bounds play, senior guard T.J. Sapp drove the ball down the court, and threw up a long jumper, which failed to reach the basket and hit the glass.

The shot clock appeared to run out on Sapp, who finished with 28 points to lead the Racers. He was one of five Racer players to reach double figure scoring.

Byrd said in his postgame press conference that he knew Barnette would make that shot because of his quick release and clutch shooting in those situations.

“Taylor Barnette gets the ball off quicker than anyone else on our team and he had great range. I knew that he wouldn’t miss it because of the situation,” Byrd said.  “It worked and it was a matter of going for the win instead of going for the tie.”

Barnette finished with nine points for the Bruins and made all his baskets in the second half to finish 3-for-8 for the game. He said that play is usually designed for freshman guard Nick Smith to take the last shot.

“I was excited when he drew it up for me, and I just said ‘Lord give me the strength to hit this shot’”, Barnette said. “Nick set a great screen and Reece [Chamberlain] made a great pass and I just let it fly and it went in. It’s surreal.”

The game-winning shot ended the nation’s second longest men’s basketball winning streak. The Racers had won 25 games in a row and were ranked No. 25 heading into the contest. Before the game, ESPN’s Joe Lunardi said that Murray State despite its great season would be eliminated from the NCAA tournament with a loss.

Murray State coach Steve Prohm addressed that issue after the game, and said the resume of the Racers and the OVC speaks for itself.

“Look at what we’ve (OVC) done in the postseason,” Prohm said. “OVC teams have won multiple NCAA Tournament games. If you’ve watched us play, then you would agree.”

Prohm said that even if things don’t go their way on Selection Sunday next week that his team will be gracious, and hope to play as a No.1 seed in the National Invitational Tournament.

The Bruins won three games in three days to win the tournament title, including a 97-64 victory over Eastern on Thursday, and a 53-52 victory over Eastern Kentucky on Friday. This is the second time in three years they have won the championship in their hometown of Nashville.

Other than the Racers, a couple of OVC teams have expressed interest in playing in smaller postseason tournaments, including the Panthers.

With a final record of 17-14, Eastern is sure to be denied consideration for the NIT tournament, but coach Jay Spoonhour expressed interest in playing in other postseason tournaments.

“I told the guys that the reality is we’re postseason eligible,” Spoonhour said. “There are other tournaments that we could go to that are really good tournaments. That’s a heck of an accomplishment and we still want to play some ball. We’ve earned it.”

 

Blake Nash can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]