Morehead State (20-12) vs. Belmont (23-8)
GAME NOTES: The first of two Ohio Valley Conference semifinal matchups on Friday will kick off with the fourth-seeded Morehead State Eagles taking on the top-seeded Belmont Bruins at Municipal Auditorium in Nashville.
Morehead State dominated Tennessee Tech in the quarterfinal round Thursday night in Nashville, winning 76-61. The Eagles had previously lost three consecutive games entering the tournament, including the season-finale on Saturday to the very same Tennessee Tech team they defeated in the quarters.
Belmont received a double-bye into the semifinal round after registering a 14-2 conference mark in its second season as a member of the Ohio Valley Conference. The Bruins earned the top seed by winning all six of its games to end the regular season, including a 76-53 rout of Jacksonville State in the Bruins' season finale on Saturday.
Belmont, having only been a member of the Ohio Valley Conference for two full regular seasons now, owns a perfect 4-0 record over Morehead State in the all- time series between the two sides. In the span of six days at the end of January during this season, the Eagles dropped two contests to the Bruins.
Morehead State went on several key runs against Tennessee Tech - one in the first half and one in the second - to gain a quick lead against the Golden Eagles on Thursday night. Angelo Warner topped the Eagles in the game with 23 points, adding six rebounds, four assists and four steals to his stat line in the quarterfinals win. Kareem Storey chipped in 17 points, and Billy Reader contributed 10 in the contest.
Warner has been a dominant force for Morehead State this season, scoring a team-high 17.7 ppg on 45.9 percent shooting from the field. Warner shows his well-rounded basketball ability with 4.8 rpg and 97 total assists on the season, which includes Thursday night's postseason contest. He leads the team with 62 steals on the year. Brent Arrington tallies 11.7 ppg, and Drew Kelly adds 10.3 ppg for the Eagles, who score 77.3 ppg as a unit. Chad Posthumus tops the team with an 11.1 rpg average.
Jacksonville State didn't present much of a challenge for Belmont in the regular-season finale on Saturday, as the Bruins jumped out to a quick 43-27 lead at the intermission and never looked back, rolling to the 23-point victory. J.J. Mann netted 19 points to pace Belmont in the contest, adding eight rebounds and four assists to his stat line. Reece Chamberlain contributed 16 points, Craig Bradshaw chipped in with 15 and Chad Lang came off the bench to score 11 in the one-sided victory. Belmont shot an immaculate 63 percent from the floor in the contest, including 50 percent from 3-point range.
Belmont's 80.2 ppg is second in the conference, and a plus-5.7 ppg scoring margin is also the OVC's second best. Mann averages 18.4 ppg to pace the Bruins (fifth in the OVC), while Bradshaw nets 15.6 ppg and Chamberlain adds 11.5 ppg with 135 assists on the year. The Bruins top the conference with a 50.6 shooting percentage from the field, and a 39.7 3-point field-goal percentage is another league leader.
Morehead State sports an up-tempo, high-powered offense, but Belmont made running through any OVC competition this season look too easy. The Bruins, who have won back-to-back regular-season titles since joining the conference, are simply just too strong to not make it back to the league championship.
GAME NOTES: The first of two Ohio Valley Conference semifinal matchups on
Friday will kick off with the fourth-seeded Morehead State Eagles taking on
the top-seeded Belmont Bruins at Municipal Auditorium in Nashville.Fact Stats
FACTS & STATS: Site: Municipal Auditorium (8,000) -- Nashville, Tennessee.
Television: ESPN U. Home Record: Morehead State 9-5, Belmont 12-1. Away
Record: Morehead State 9-6, Belmont 9-7. Neutral Record: Morehead State 2-1,
Belmont 2-0. Conference Record: Morehead State 10-6, Belmont 14-2. Series
Record: Belmont leads, 4-0.Game Date and Time
Friday, March 7, 7:30 p.m. (ET)Predicted Outcome
Belmont 81, Morehead State 72