Belmont’s young gun making his shots count

Thursday, January 7, 2010 at 1:42am

Ian Clark’s assimilation into college basketball has been anything but wait-and-see. It’s been more like ‘Wait until you see this guy.’

The freshman guard scored a team-high 21 points for Belmont in its season-opening victory against Portland State. In early December he topped 20 points in back-to-back games — both Bruins’ victories — and most recently he poured in a career-high 31 Monday in an 85-71 triumph over Stetson.

He’ll attempt to continue that offensive roll Thursday when Belmont hosts USC Upstate at the Curb Events Center. Tip-off time is 4:15 p.m. (the women start at 2 p.m.) instead of the originally scheduled 7:15 p.m.

“He has been very good, but he is a freshman,” coach Rick Byrd said. “There’s a level of physicality in this game that he’s not used to, and he needs to get better in that regard — both physically and mentally tougher. But that’s the case with most every freshman who walks in.”

Where he differs from a lot of players one year removed from high school is in his ability to score.

Clark currently is ninth in the Atlantic Sun in scoring at 13.9 points per game and is one of just two freshmen among the top 10. He is the only freshman among the league’s top 15 in 3-pointers made (28) and also ranks among the top 10 in both 3-point and overall field goal percentage.

In the victory over Stetson, he was 10-for-17 from the field, including 5-for-11 on 3-pointers as Belmont snapped a four-game losing streak, which included its first conference loss of the season — 66-63 against Florida Gulf Coast two nights earlier.

Through 14 games, his 148 shots and 28 3-pointers both were team-highs. He also was one of only two Bruins to have started every contest.

“We like to shoot a lot of 3s,” Clark said. “I think that’s why they recruited me because they know I like to shoot and handle the ball as well. …I wanted to come in and make a contribution, but I mostly wanted to do what my coaches wanted me to do and help my team win.”

It’s a lot of the same things he did at Germantown High School, where he was the leading scorer as a sophomore, junior and senior. Last year he averaged 23 points, five rebounds and five assists.

“He’s a very, very good player,” Byrd said. “And he will be, I think, for a long time here.”

For Belmont supporters, that’s something to look forward to. Not so for Bruins’ opponents.



Men’s basketball
Thursday’s games

USC Upstate at Belmont, 4:15 p.m.
Murray State at Tennessee State, 6 p.m.
Mid-Continent at Trevecca, 8 p.m.

Saturday’s games

Florida at Vanderbilt, 11 a.m. (ESPN2)
Trevecca at Blue Mountain, 4 p.m.
USC Upstate at Lipscomb, 6:15 p.m.
UT-Martin at Tennessee State, 7:30 p.m.

Monday’s game

Belmont at Lipscomb, 8 p.m. (CSS)

Women’s basketball
Thursday’s games

USC Upstate at Belmont, 2 p.m.
Murray State at Tennessee State, 4 p.m.
Mid-Continent at Trevecca, 6 p.m.
Vanderbilt at Mississippi State, 8 p.m. (CSS)

Saturday’s games

Trevecca at Blue Mountain, 2 p.m.
USC Upstate at Lipscomb, 4 p.m.
UT-Martin at Tennessee State, 5:30 p.m.

Sunday’s game

Vanderbilt at Kentucky, noon (Fox Sports)

Monday’s game

Belmont at Lipscomb, 5:30 p.m.