Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports
Look asleep on your feet for a half: check. Fire it up after the break: check. Advance to the OVC finals: check.
Heading into halftime of the Belmont vs. Tennessee State, there was a singular highlight for the Bruins, despite hanging to a three-point lead.
After a steal, Blake Jenkins tossed a behind-the-back pass as he was falling down, that translated into a running layup to protect the lead. It was such a change of pace during the first half for the Bruins that this became a running highlight on the halftime show. It may have been Sportscenter Top 10 worthy, but there was also little else to show for the Bruins.
The halftime crew: they were contemplating Belmont's resume assuming that they had played so badly, they were going to lose. No confidence, as if the Bruins were afraid of failure.
This must have been one heck of a halftime speech.
Belmont came out and turned the game into a steal fest and a 3-point shooting contest, led by J.J. Mann and OVC co-player of the year Ian Clark. The Bruins ran to a 82-73 win and a spot in the conference championship game in the first game in the league.
Clark came out of the locker room and started to launch from long range. Bam. Bam. Bam. There was a stretch of six minuted when the Belmont star hit four threes. That was enough to extend the lead out to double digits. That was all that Belmont needed to move on.
It also helped that Tennessee State decided that they were the team playing in the white uniforms. They Tigers had 21 turnovers in the game. Giving the ball away like that pretty much means no dice, especially when the worst offender is the NBA-caliber pro on the team, Robert Covington (seven turnovers).
Clark finished with 26 points, including six 3-pointers, all in the second half (Belmont was 0-for-10 in the first 20 minutes). His partner in crime, Kerron Johnson, had 23 points and seven assists in the win.
Kellen Thornton finished with 22 points, 12 rebounds, two steals and a block in the loss for Tennessee State.