Friday, March 4, 2011

Bruins Overcome Hostile Crowd to Return to Finals

A season ago, Belmont’s run in the General Shale Brick Atlantic Sun Championships lasted all of one game as the Bruins succumb to injuries and a raucous student section in an 87-81 loss to the hosting Mercer.

Last season Belmont quickly built a 14-point lead midway through the first half, but lost Mick Hedgepeth to a leg injury and Jordan Campbell suffered a facial injury. Those losses combined with stellar performances from James Florence and Daniel Emerson sent the Bruins home in the quarterfinals for the first time since 2003.

Since that loss, Belmont’s only blemish in A-Sun play came at the hands of rival Lipscomb at a sold-out Allen Arena. Much like their 2010 Championship loss, the Bruins failed to preserve a double-digit advantage, relinquishing an 18-point advantage.

Returning to the scene of last season’s loss, the two Bruins lost to injury played key roles in the Bruins’ 80-72 victory. Jordan Campbell, who had averaged only 5.5 points in six career Championship games netted 17 while Hedgepeth notched 11 points and grabbed nine rebounds – six on the offensive end.

“We kind of expected them to come out with a lot of energy in this atmosphere and especially coming off a big win,” Kerron Johnson said. “We played our style and teams get tired, and we made our runs when we kind of took advantage of their fatigue. But they had a lot of energy at the end of the game and as well they should with that crowd, it was just a great environment to be in.”

Belmont has experienced mixed results playing on the home floors of opponents in Championship play. Prior to Friday night’s victory, Belmont’s lone win in three tries came in the 2007 title game when they used a 12-for-19 first-half shooting performance from the 3-point arc to trounce ETSU, 94-67. In addition to last year’s defeat, Belmont ‘s 2003 quarterfinal loss to Georgia State came at the GSU Arena.

Having cleared the home-town hurdle, Belmont seeks a fourth title, one that would tie UCF for the most in Atlantic Sun history. Belmont has several streaks to try and build on – the Bruins are 3-0 all-time in title games and are 16-0 this season when donning their home white jerseys.

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