Thursday, March 30, 2023
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MBB-FCS: Belmont Bruins (17-8) at Missouri State Bears (12-12)

Belmont University men’s basketball returns to game action Wednesday at Missouri State.

Belmont defeated Illinois State Saturday. Even Brauns led four Bruins in double figures with 18 points and 12 rebounds. Belmont (17-8, 10-4 MVC) is in a tie for first place in the Missouri Valley Conference standings with three weeks remaining.

Senior Ben Sheppard is building off his all-conference season a year ago and has established himself as one of the most complete players in college basketball. The Atlanta native ranks among MVC leaders in 18 statistical categories, including first in total points and points per game, second in field goals made and third in field goal percentage. He is among a select group of active college basketball players with over 1,300 career points, 400 rebounds, 200 assists and 100 steals. Sheppard had 17 points and six rebounds vs. Missouri State earlier this season. He has scored 164 points over his last seven games.

Sheppard was named Missouri Valley Conference Player of the Week Monday, becoming the first player to receive the honor three times this season.

Keishawn Davidson had a season-high 10 assists vs. Missouri State, one of only five MVC players to record double figure assists in a game this season. 
Davidson was named Missouri Valley Conference Newcomer of the Week Dec. 19. He currently ranks third in the MVC in assist-turnover ratio and fourth in assists per game. Davidson has five or more assists in 10 games this season. He scored a season-high 23 points at Chattanooga and had eight points and five assists vs. Illinois State.
Cade Tyson has made an instant impact on both ends of the floor for the Bruins, currently leading the MVC in scoring among freshmen (13.3). Tyson scored a season-high 20 points vs. Missouri State and has scored in double figures in six straight games and in 19 of his 23 game appearances. His game-winning shot in Belmont’s season-opening victory over Ohio earned Tyson ESPN SCTop10 No. 1 play.

Fellow freshman Ja’Kobi Gillespie has also made his presence felt this season. The Greeneville, Tennessee native currently ranks among league leaders in assists and steals. His six steals vs. George Mason remains the conference single-game standard. Gillespie has scored in double figures in five of his last eight games with 30 assists over that span. He had a season-high 18 points and six assists at Evansville.

Graduate student Drew Friberg is third on the team in scoring at 12.0 points per game. He scored a career-high 24 points at Georgia State and recorded 14 points and six rebounds vs. Illinois State. Friberg leads the MVC with 83 3-point field goals, and ranks Top 10 nationally in 3-point field goals and 3-point field goal percentage. He scored 11 points vs. Missouri State earlier this season.
Even Brauns has recorded double figure scoring in six conference games, including double-doubles in two of his last three games. Brauns has 23 blocked shots over his last 10 games and he ranks among league leaders in offensive rebounding and blocked shots.

Belmont has scored 228 bench points in Missouri Valley Conference games, including a season-high 33 bench points at Valparaiso Jan. 10.What’s Bruin

  • The Bruins went 25-8 last season in earning an at-large bid to the Postseason NIT.
  • After having one of the most experienced teams in college basketball in 2021-22, Belmont lost seven of its top eight scorers from last year’s team, most notably program legends Grayson Murphy – the all-time leader in assists and steals in Ohio Valley Conference history – and Nick Muszynski.
  • Belmont welcomes nine newcomers, including redshirt freshman Isaiah Walker, graduate transfer Drew Friberg and three-year Tennessee Tech starter Keishawn Davidson.
  • Belmont’s 77 victories over the last three seasons ranks fifth nationally (Gonzaga, Kansas, Houston, Baylor; entering 2022-23).
  • Belmont has posted 330 conference wins since 2003 (includes tournament), with Gonzaga nationally.
  • Belmont’s 406 victories since 2007 leads the state of Tennessee – including Tennessee, Memphis and Vanderbilt.
  • Belmont has won 20+ games and earned postseason play 15 of the last 17 years. That includes NCAA Tournament appearances in 2006, 2007, 2008, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2015, 2019 & 2020.
  • Belmont has won 20 conference championships (eight tournament, 12 regular season) since 2006. Only Gonzaga and Kansas have won more conference championships over that span.
  • Belmont is the only school in the nation to win 20 or more games seven consecutive seasons in men’s and women’s basketball.
  • Belmont has been ranked in the Mid-Major Top 25 for 18 consecutive seasons, dating back to 2006. The Bruins were No. 21 in the Mid-Major Top 25 preseason poll.
  • Belmont won an OVC-record 30 consecutive conference games from Jan. 30, 2020-Feb. 24, 2021.
  • Belmont went a league-best 145-27 (.843) in Ohio Valley Conference conference games from 2013-22 (81-5 home, 64-22 away).
  • Belmont has received national poll votes in 11 of the last 12 seasons.
  • Belmont will play up to 13 games vs. teams who earned postseason play in 2021-22, and up to 17 games vs. team who were Q1/Q2 in the final 2021-22 NET rankings.

This marks the second meeting between Belmont and Missouri State.

Belmont nearly played Missouri State during the 2011 season in a non-conference MTE hosted by the University of Tennessee. However, Belmont played Arkansas State and Missouri State played Tennessee. That season, Belmont finished 30-5 and finished with a program-best final RPI and KenPom ranking of 23.

Belmont head coach Casey Alexander and Missouri State head coach Dana Ford faced each other four times from 2015-18 when Alexander coached Lipscomb and Ford coached Tennessee State. Each team won two games.

EJ Bellinger is a native of St. Peters, Missouri. He scored five points vs. Missouri State earlier this season.

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