OH SO CLOSE!
Bruins Catch Nation by Surprise with Phenomenal NCAA Tournament Performance
Showcasing the heart of a champion and putting the madness into March, Belmont men’s basketball came within one basket of recording one of the greatest victories in college basketball history. After leading several times in the second half, the Bruins fell to second-seeded Duke in the NCAA Tournament first round, 71-70. Making its historic third consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance representing the Atlantic Sun Conference, Belmont drew its third straight iconic college basketball program in the “Big Dance” after playing UCLA in 2006 and Georgetown in 2007. But the Bruins kept it close throughout the game, winning more and more crowd support as the game went on. Behind by one, the Bruins collected a rebound and called timeout with 2.1 seconds left to play. Needing to go the length of the court, junior Will Peeples threw a solid baseball pass to senior Justin Hare at midcourt, who turned and fired a running 40-footer at the horn. The shot to win was nearly on target, but rimmed off to the left. Head Coach Rick Byrd said, “It’s tough to come that close and not win. I’m so proud of our team and our players; I wouldn’t feel any better or be any prouder of them if the score would have been in our favor.” Byrd wasn’t alone in extolling the praises of the Belmont men’s basketball team as media coverage was extensive, with hundreds of hits, including coverage by the New York Times, Washington Post, the Associated Press, Los Angeles Times, Newsday, ESPN, SI.com, CBSsports.com and MSNBC.com, among countless others. Duke Head Coach Mike Krzyzewski said, “We played against a team that played an amazing game. They’re a very good team… I’ve coached in 89 [NCAA Tournament] games now. I told the guys, as far as game pressure goes, this had to rank in the top three or four, and hopefully the people at Belmont take that as a real compliment because they should be complimented.”
nA lex Renfroe
Bob Knight, the winningest College Basketball Coach in NCAA History and a current ESPN College Basketball Analyst, added, “I think Belmont would have given most anybody in the country trouble the way they played.” Belmont (25-9) finished its finest season with a program-best 25 victories, including beating Jacksonville for the A-Sun title and wins over Cincinnati and Alabama. Perhaps most delightful for the home crowd were two “Battle of the Boulevard” wins against cross town rival Lipscomb University, a classic double overtime win 99-91 on Jan. 12 and a 74-65 home court victory on Feb. 22. n
nA ndy Wicke
nB yrd (C) congratulates Krzyzewski
Published on Sep 7, 2011