Saturday night featured a thriller in the Ohio Valley Conference Championship Game thanks to Nick Muszynski’s scoring and late-game heroics from Tyler Scanlon.
Scanlon’s basket with mere seconds remaining helped the Belmont Bruins defeat their foes Murray State for the OVC championship for the first time since 2015. The win also got Belmont an entry into the 2020 NCAA Tournament field.
Muszynski, Scanlon help Belmont defeat Murray State
Several exciting college basketball championship games occurred on Saturday including Utah State’s buzzer-beater and Belmont’s one-point win over the Murray State Racers. Both games helped get the respective winning teams some early entries into the Big Dance.
For the Belmont basketball squad, Nick Muszynski led the way in terms of scoring performance. The 6-foot-11 sophomore center recorded 25 points, eight rebounds, and two blocks in 25 minutes on the court.
However, it was his teammate Tyler Scanlon who provided the late-game heroics to help Belmont grab a late victory.
The Bruins would inbound with 9.5 seconds remaining in the contest. Grayson Murphy dribbled a bit before passing it to Adam Kunkel who found Scanlon on a beautiful backdoor cut play. Scanlon drove under the basket and hit a reverse layup giving Belmont the 76-75 lead.
Ohio Valley Champions! Belmont captures its first conference title since 2015 with annual nail-biter vs Murray State.
— CollegeBB News (@CollegeBBNCAA) March 8, 2020
The Racers would have their chance to get some sort of March Madness buzzer-beater to win it. Unfortunately, Murray State was unable to even attempt to get a good shot. As the buzzer sounded, it was Belmont claiming the win and getting to cut down the net.
That win was huge as it brought head coach Casey Alexander a first Ohio Valley Conference championship in just his first year as Belmont coach.
Belmont wins the OVC Championship and is dancing in March! Casey Alexander with an incredible job in his first year as coach. pic.twitter.com/osbmSJMKcf
— CBB Talk (@CBBSuperFan) March 8, 2020
Tyler Scanlon finished the game with 17 points, four rebounds, and two steals, per ESPN. He played 38 minutes, the most of any member of the Bruins roster. Kunkel added 16 points and five assists in the win.
Belmont back in Big Dance again
This marks a ninth trip to the NCAA Tournament for the Belmont Bruins. It’s their second-straight appearance, as the team was in last year’s Big Dance as a No. 11 seed. Belmont had to win a First Four game against Temple to get into the first round of the bracket.
They’d go on to lose a close one to No. 6 seed Maryland 79-77 in that first-round game.
As of this report, Joe Lunardi’s Bracketology has Belmont listed as a No. 14 seed in the East taking on No. 3 seed Duke. That could all change, and probably will, as Selection Sunday arrives in the near future.
BELMONT IS DANCING 🕺
— NCAA March Madness (@marchmadness) March 8, 2020
The team first appeared in the Big Dance in 2006 as a No. 15 seed and fell to UCLA in a rout that year, 78-44. They’d enter the next two tournaments, again as No. 15 seed, and lost both times. However, 2008 featured a thriller as they nearly took out Duke.
The team also played in the 2011, 2012, 2013, and 2015 NCAA Tournaments. They have yet to advance past the first round.
As for the Murray State Racers, it appears their aspirations of a run at March Madness will have to wait another season. If nothing else, fans can still root for alumni Ja Morant, who appears to be headed towards an NBA Rookie of the Year Award and possibly a postseason berth.