The big wins keep coming for the Belmont men’s basketball team early this season. First there was Cincinnati from the Big East. Then there was Alabama from the SEC.
The latest, a breezy 85-62 win over Middle Tennessee the Curb Event Center on Monday, might not have the name recognition of Cincinnati or Alabama, but it may very well be the Bruins’ biggest of the season so far.
BU (5-2) hadn’t beaten its I-24 rival in its last three tries. Last season the Bruins squandered a 16-point lead at MTSU.
Belmont (5-2) didn’t fold against the Blue Raiders this time. The Bruins built a 22-point lead at the half and never looked back after that.
“We’re 0-3 against [MTSU coach Kermit Davis’s] teams the last three years,” BU coach Rick Byrd said. “Really led the game last year for 30-plus minutes and they came back, to their credit, and won the game.
“So when we play people locally, a lot of people show up. People know who wins and loses. It’s important for both of our programs to win games like this one.”
Matthew Dotson led the charge for BU. He scored 18 points on 8-of-10 shooting and grabbed six boards. Shane Dansby added 14 and Alex Renfroe had 12 off the bench. Star senior Justin Hare finished with 12.
“We just came out and tried to stay focused in every phase of the game,” Dotson said. “It started with our defense and that kind of set it up for us.”
Eleven players scored for Belmont, continuing Byrd’s habit from last season of distributing minutes evenly. Ten players notched double digit minutes. Walk-on Andrew House even got in on the action, hitting a jumper in the waning minutes to the crowd’s delight.
“It’s even harder for me than last year [to find everyone minutes],” Byrd said. “This year we play 11, and they all deserve to play.”
Belmont was up 51-29, at the break and built a lead which reached as high as 32 points in the second half.
With the win, Belmont upped its all-time record against MTSU to 8-16. The two teams will meet again in Murfreesboro on Dec. 12.
Belmont also moved to 4-1 in home openers at the Curb.