Just when the Ohio Valley Conference’s newest team roared back and capped off a furious comeback, the reigning conference player of the year answered.
Murray State’s Isaiah Canaan made a go-ahead 3-pointer and sent Belmont home with a 79-74 loss on Thursday night in a matchup of the league’s two best teams. Canaan led all scorers with 26 points, and the Bruins’ 10-game win streak ended with their first OVC loss.
The Racers (17-5, 8-2) led 67-53 with 4:59 remaining before Belmont (19-5, 10-1) stormed back. Ian Clark accounted for three of the team’s final five 3-pointers, including a shot in the corner to tie the game 74-74 with 58 seconds left.
Canaan responded with a deep dagger to send the 7,141 at Murray State’s CFSB Center into a frenzy.
In response, Clark, who scored a team-high 22 points, tried to push the tempo but committed his fourth and final turnover. Canaan made one of two free throws – he was 15-of-17 at the line – for a four-point lead. J.J. Mann missed a 3-pointer with 11 seconds to go and Ed Daniel made one of two free throws to clinch the win.
“I’ll take the blame for that one. I can’t make that turnover,” Clark wrote on Twitter. “We will bounce back. Proud of this team.”
Clark entered the contest ranked first in the country in 3-point shooting at 51.4 percent. After missing three of his first four, he caught fire late, draining his last three. Blake Jenkins and Kerron Johnson each scored 12 points and Mann added 10. Stacy Wilson scored 16 and Brandon Garrett had 13 for Murray, which has won six of seven.
The Bruins shot 64.3 percent in the second half but dug too big of a hole early on. They never led after the opening five minutes and trailed by 10 at halftime.
“We were the inferior team tonight,” Belmont coach Rick Byrd said in a postgame radio interview. “They were more ready. They were the better team tonight. … They pressured us. They took us out of a lot of things we like to do. They made us uncomfortable with the ball in our hands.”