Belmont University (22-10) took Murray State, the No. 25 ranked team in the country, out of the NCAA Tournament with a stunning win in the Ohio Valley Conference championship game. The Bruins beat the Racers 88-87 to return to the Big Dance for the first time since 2013.
Here’s what you need to know about Belmont:
1. The Bruins Knocked Off Top-Seeded Murray State With a Buzzer-Beating Shot
A game-winning three-pointer Taylor Barnette sent Belmont to a one-point victory over Murray State, the OVC regular season champions. The Bruins trailed the Racers by eight points at halftime, but outscored them 47-38 in the second half, capping off the comeback with Barnette’s shot from the top of the key with 3.2 seconds left.
Head Coach Rick Byrd told the Associated Press after the game:
This one’s special because I didn’t expect our team to be able to do it frankly. I didn’t think it wasn’t possible. We’re just so young.
2. Belmont Has Been to the NCAA Tournament 7 Times Since 2006
The Bruins won their former conference, the Atlantic Sun, five times from 2006 to 2012 before joining the OVC, which they have now won twice.
Despite making six trips to the tournament, Belmont has never won a game there. The Bruins went from NAIA to Division I in 1996.
3. Craig Bradshaw Is One of the Nation’s Top Scorers
Junior guard Craig Bradshaw is one of the top 50 scorers in the country, averaging 18.1 points per game.
He is supported by sophomore guard Evan Bradds (14.3 ppg) and Barnette, who is also a sophomore guard (10.7 ppg).
The Bruins rely heavily on the 3-point shot and are one of the top scoring teams in the nation (74.5 ppg, 32nd overall). Belmont shot 38 percent from 3-point range this season as a team, 47th best in the country.
4. Rick Byrd Has Coached Belmont Since 1986
Byrd has been with Belmont since 1986, turning the program into a NAIA powerhouse and then taking the Bruins through the transition to Division I in 1996. He is one of five coaches to win 500 games at one school and won his 700th game as a coach (including NAIA) in January.
5. Belmont Is Located in Nashville
Belmont is a Christian university located in Nashville, Tennessee. There are about 5,800 undergraduates enrolled at the school, which was founded in 1890.
Notable alumni include country music artists Brad Paisley, Josh Turner, Lee Ann Womack, Trisha Yearwood and Florida Georgia Line members Brian Kelley and Tyler Hubbard.