The No. 11 Belmont Bruins (27-5) advanced to the round of 64 after an 81-70 victory over the No. 11 Temple Owls (23-10) on Tuesday night. With the Owls hounding Dylan Windler all game long, shooting guard Kevin McClain scored 29 points to lead all scorers in the First Four game.
Windler came into the game averaging over 21 points per game. However, the defense from Nate Pierre-Louis and Quinton Rose helped slow down the perimeter play from Windler all night. Yet, he made his own contributions despite scoring only five points. Windler dominated the glass with 14 rebounds. Even when there were no shots coming his way, Windler attempted to do all of the little things to help the Bruins win their first NCAA Tournament game ever.
The Bruins also had major help in freshman Nick Muszynski in the post. He scored 16 points on 8 of 12 shooting in his first game back since sustaining an ankle injury during the semifinals of the OVC tournament. Muszynski utilized an assortment of post moves to punish the Owls’ defense for refusing to double down in the paint. He had plenty of time to do work in one-on-one situations. Repeatedly, Muszynski took advantage of Windler’s presence on the court.
After jumping out to 15-8 lead, the Bruins saw the first of many runs from the Owls. Moments later, a 14-2 run helped Temple take a 22-17 lead. J.P. Moorman connected on a 3-pointer to complete the run. Yet, the Bruins were not to be denied. They returned the favor to outscore the Owls 20-9 in the final few minutes to take a 37-31 lead at the half. Still, those weren’t the only runs on the night.
The Bruins opened the second half with a pair of buckets to take a double digit lead. A 3-pointer by Michael Benkert was followed by Muszynski’s layup to give the Owls a 42-31 lead. However, the Owls responded with a 10-0 run to cut the lead to one.
Instead of calling a timeout, head coach Rick Byrd called and offensive set. Once again, Muszynski made a hook shot in the lane to give the Bruins a 3-point lead, 44-41. However, the Owls’ run was not over. They continued to score inside-out. First, Shizz Alston hit a 3-pointer to tie the game at 46. Then, a Pierre-Louis dunk gave the Owls their first lead since late in the first half. Less than a minute later, the Ernest Aflakpui made a jump shot to give the Owls a 50-46 lead. All of a sudden the Owls were on a 19-4 run. Eventually, their run ended at 21 to 5. At this point, the Owls were up 52-47 with 11:20 left in the game.
They were outscored 34 to 18 in the final 11 minutes of the game. More importantly, contributions came from everybody not name Windler. Nick Hopkins made his only 3-point attempt of the game to give the Bruins a 60-55 lead. McClain responded with another dagger from 3-point range. By the time Windler made his second shot of the game, the Bruins led 69-58 with 3:33 left. That’s when foul shooting took over.
McClain was 9 of 11 from the charity stripe down the stretch. Adam Kunkel also made 5 of 6 free throws to help salt away the game.
Freshman Grayson Murphy had a strong floor game with 9 points, 6 rebounds and 6 assists. He also had three costly turnovers in 35 minutes.
Alston led the Owls with 21 points and 5 assists. Pierre-Louis finished with 13 points, 11 rebounds and 5 assists. In all, the Owls had four players reach double figures. Meanwhile, the Bruins only had two players score in double figures. The Bruins were 9 of 23 from 3-point range as a team, while the Owls shot 7 of 22 from long range.
The Bruins will face the No. 6 seed Maryland Terrapins out of the Big Ten in the round of 64 on Thursday.