Belmont (9-4) at Jacksonville State (10-3)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Thursday, January 3, 8 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Pete Mathews Coliseum (5,300) -- Jacksonville, Alabama. Television: None. Home Record: Belmont 4-0, JSU 5-0. Away Record: Belmont 3-3, JSU 3-3. Neutral Record: Belmont 2-1, JSU 2-0. Conference Record: Belmont 0-0, JSU 2-0. Series Record: Jacksonville State leads, 3-2.
GAME NOTES: The Belmont Bruins are to set to make their Ohio Valley Conference debut on Thursday when they travel to Pete Mathews Coliseum to take on the Jacksonville State Gamecocks.
Belmont finished last season with a 16-2 mark in Atlantic Sun Conference games and it will look to carry that success over into the tougher OVC. The Bruins enter with a 9-4 overall record after a 66-63 loss at UCF on Dec. 29. Coach Rick Byrd's team had a very difficult non-conference slate, but it managed to pick up notable victories over Stanford (70-62), Middle Tennessee (64-49) and South Dakota State (76-49) and build a 3-3 record in away games. Belmont is decent on both ends of the floor as it owns a scoring offense average of 73.4 points per game on 46.3 percent shooting from the floor, while limiting opponents to 62.6 ppg and a .382 field goal percentage.
James Green's Gamecocks will be looking to build upon their 10-3 record after a 64-54 victory over Tennessee-Martin on New Year's Eve. All three of Jacksonville State's losses have come on the road to UNLV (77-58), Oregon (67-45), and Nebraska (59-55). JSU has won its last two games and seven of its last eight. Despite the solid record, the Gamecocks are scoring only 64.8 ppg. They are much better defensively, however, with a scoring defense of only 59.2 ppg.
This will be just the sixth encounter between these schools on the hardwood. Jacksonville State leads the all-time series after winning three of the five previous meetings that all took place between 2000 and 2003.
The Bruins put up a cold shooting display against UCF, making only 37.3 percent of their field goal attempts including a 7-of-26 mark from beyond the arc. The Knights hit 42.9 percent of their shots from the field and could have won by much more had they not converted only 15-of-27 at the charity stripe. Ian Clark paced Belmont by tallying 21 points. Kerron Johnson added 18 points and eight rebounds, while Trevor Noack contributed 12 points. Clark is pacing the team with 17.4 ppg thanks to an OVC-best 44 makes from 3-point range. Johnson is chipping in 13.8 ppg while Noack is netting 12.5 points and 6.2 rebounds per outing.
JSU was noticeably aggressive its last time out as it made frequent trips to the free-throw line where it drained 21-of-29 attempts to help power the 10- point decision. Tarvin Gaines submitted a breakout performance by scoring a season-high 23 points, while Darion Rackley, Ronnie Boggs, and Brian Williams combined to produce 33 total points. All four are scoring at least 11 ppg with Rackley leading at the head of the class with 13.8 ppg. Williams is also the team's best distributor (3.2 apg) and Boggs is pulling down six boards per game for a weak rebounding squad overall.
Belmont is not going to get a warm welcome to the OVC by this feisty JSU unit. The Bruins will be able to wear the Gamecocks down as the contest wears on, but they will be tested before taking home the decision.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Belmont 66, Jacksonville State 60
01/03 10:42:45 ET