FORT MYERS, Fla. – Belmont turned a three-point halftime lead into a 36-point edge in the second half, shooting 63 percent in the final frame en route to a 83-51 win over the FGCU men’s basketball team in the Atlantic Sun home opener for the Eagles at Alico Arena on Monday night.
A buzzer-beating three-pointer by sophomore Sherwood Brown (Orlando, Fla./Olympia HS) made it a 28-25 game at the half in favor of Belmont, but that was the last bit of momentum the Eagles would enjoy as the Bruins out-scored the Blue and Green 55-26 over the final 20 minutes.
The loss slips FGCU to 3-9 on the year and 0-3 in the A-Sun. Belmont (11-3) picks up its league-best 11th victory, while staying unbeaten in league play at 3-0. The Bruins and Jacksonville (3-0) are the lone two unbeatens left in conference action.
Redshirt sophomore Anthony Banks (Lantana, Fla./Santaluces HS) was the lone double figure scorer for FGCU with 13 points during a foul-plagued 24 minutes. Banks has led the team in scoring six of the last eight games and has reached double-digits a team-best 11 times.
Belmont was led by reigning A-Sun Freshman of the Year Ian Clark, who led four Bruins in double figures with a game-high 17 points. Clark drilled three of Belmont’s 11 three-pointers on the night, as the Bruins entered the game sixth in the nation in threes per game.
Despite shooting a solid 53 percent (8-15) in the second half, FGCU was plagued by 25 turnovers that led to 34 points for Belmont. The Bruins also owned a 46-15 edge in bench points and a 34-16 advantage in points in the paint.
For the game, FGCU shot 40 percent (15-38), while Belmont finished with a 51 percent clip (32-63).
Foul trouble struck the Eagles early and often, as Banks picked up his second foul by the 14:43 mark, while starting center Kevin Cantinol (Guadeloupe, French West Indies/Calvary Christian/Ole Miss) had three personals by the end of the second media timeout (11:46).
With two of FGCU’s three starting big men on the bench, Belmont opened a 17-9 lead with 9:51 remaining in the half, limiting FGCU to just four made field goals over the opening 10 minutes.
Belmont sustained at least a two-possession lead for most of the remainder of the half until FGCU closed the frame on an 8-2 run to turn a 26-17 Bruin lead with 1:42 to go into a slim 28-25 halftime deficit. Brown ended the period in style, drilling a three-pointer from the left wing as time expired.
Both team struggled on the offensive end over the opening 20 minutes, combining to shoot 19-of-54 from the field with 25 fouls and 17 turnovers.
Belmont found its offensive rhythm out of the gates after the break, scoring 13 points by the first media timeout to stretch its lead to 10, at 41-31.
A three-pointer by freshman Chase Fieler (Parkersburg, W.Va./ Parkersburg South) cut it to an eight-point game, 44-36, with 14:08 left, before Belmont scored 12 unanswered points during a game-clinching 35-9 run that ultimately ended with the score at 79-45 with just over four minutes left.
Seeing his first action in five games, junior Tim Snyder (Punta Gorda, Fla./Charlotte HS/Hillsborough CC) scored nine points in 23 minutes of work. Senior Reed Baker (Naples, Fla./Bishop Verot HS/Michigan) added eight points for the Eagles.
FGCU will continue its fast start to the month of January when it hosts another defending A-Sun co-champ in Lipscomb (7-5, 2-1) on Wednesday night. Lipscomb fell to Stetson, 76-66, tonight. Tip time on Wednesday evening is slated for 7:30 p.m.