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OVC newcomer Belmont crushes Southeast Missouri State men's basketball team
The Southeast men's basketball team suffered a decisive 107-72 road loss
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Belmont celebrated its first Ohio Valley Conference home men's basketball game as a member of the league Thursday night.
Southeast Missouri State served as the Bruins' sacrificial lamb.
The Bruins, blitzing Southeast from the start, shot a sizzling 61.5 percent and had two players score 30 points during a 107-72 romp.
"They were impressive. They have no weaknesses. They're really good," a shellshocked Southeast coach Dickey Nutt said.
An announced crowd of 1,932 at the Curb Event Center, which opened in 2003, saw the Bruins improve to 12-4 overall and 3-0 in OVC play with their third straight win.
Southeast fell to 10-8 and 2-2 with its second consecutive loss -- and most lopsided of the campaign, easily surpassing a season-opening 19-point setback at Kansas.
The Redhawks allowed at least 100 points for the first time since losing 103-76 at Tennessee Tech in the 2008-09 season as Belmont set a Curb Event Center scoring record.
"They play together. They really play as a team," Southeast junior forward Tyler Stone said. "You can tell they've been playing together a long time."
Nutt knew Thursday's first-ever meeting between the programs would pose a difficult challenge because the Bruins have such a strong basketball pedigree.
Belmont, the OVC East Division preseason favorite, earned NCAA tournament berths five of the past seven years -- including the last two -- as a member of the Atlantic Sun Conference.
"They've got a tremendous program. and they've got a lot of experience," Nutt said. "They're well coached. They'll win a lot of games in this league."
The Bruins, who have won 33 of their last 34 home games, were simply too much for the Redhawks.
Southeast never led and was tied only three times, the last at 7-7 in the opening minutes.
Belmont ripped off eight straight points to go ahead 15-7 and opened up its first double-figure advantage of the night at 19-9 less than eight minutes into the contest.
The Redhawks cut the deficit to 19-11, but the Bruins then took total control with a 9-0 burst that made it 28-11. Southeast got no closer than 13 points the rest of the way.
"We got off to a bad start. We turned the ball over like six times in our first 10 possessions," Stone said.
Belmont led by 23 points in the first half and it was 48-29 at the break. Things only got worse for Southeast in the second half as Belmont against blitzed the Redhawks from the outset. The Bruins' biggest lead was 37 points.
"This is the first game all year where we haven't had a chance, the first game we showed some frustration. We had no answer for them," Nutt said.
Belmont coach Rick Byrd, who has won more than 550 games in his 27th season with the Bruins, admitted the score surprised him.
"They do have a good team. All you had to do was look at the Missouri and Murray State games to know what they are capable of," said Byrd, referring to contests against notable teams where the Redhawks held second-half leads of double figures before faltering. "We came out firing."
Belmont's heralded senior backcourt of Ian Clark and Kerron Johnson, both preseason all-OVC selections without ever playing a game in the conference, were impressive Thursday.
But 6-foot-7, 240-pound senior forward Trevor Noack probably was the star of the game.
Noack, averaging 12 points, scored a career-high 30 points -- 17 in the first half. His previous career high was 24 points. He hit 10 of 16 field goals, including 3 of 5 3-pointers, and added a team-high seven rebounds.
Clark, Belmont's top scorer at more than 17 points per game, also had 30 points. He hit 12 of 14 shots, including 4 of 5 3-pointers to boost his OVC-leading total of baskets from beyond the arc to 53.
"They had two of the best games of their careers," Byrd said.
Clark said the Bruins went into the game more concerned about their defense than offense.
"Our offense is so good, we just let it come and worry about the defensive end," he said.
Stone paced Southeast with 18 points and eight rebounds.
Junior guard A.J. Jones scored 13 points. Senior guard Marland Smith had 10 points, six rebounds and a team-high five assists.
Redshirt freshman walk-on forward Jacob Tolbert, a Notre Dame Regional High School graduate, scored four points off the bench. He had only four points all season before Thursday.
The Bruins, who entered play leading the OVC with 47.3-percent field-goal shooting, hit 54.8 percent in the first half and a blistering 67.6 percent in the second half. They also shot 47.8 percent from 3-point range (11 of 23).
Southeast had been among the national leaders in field-goal percentage defense at an OVC-best 38 percent.
"It seemed like they couldn't miss," Stone said.
The Redhawks shot 44.4 percent and had 20 turnovers. Southeast came in averaging just 12.4 turnovers and had 16 by halftime.
Belmont, which committed nine turnovers, had a 25-11 edge in points off turnovers.
"We got off to a bad start right away with a lot of turnovers," Nutt said.
Southeast wraps up its two-game road trip at 7 p.m. Saturday at Tennessee State (10-7, 4-0), another OVC East Division squad that is undefeated in conference play.
"That's the good thing about college basketball -- you get a chance to bounce back quick," Nutt said. "But Tennessee State is just as good as anybody."