Don't credit rule changes or a shorter shot clock. Belmont and BYU know how to play entertaining basketball, they like playing entertaining basketball and tonight they met for one heck of an entertaining basketball game.
The Bruins and Cougars combined to score 176 points tonight at the Marriott Center. Nick Emery (27 points), Kyle Collinsworth (26 points) and Craig Bradshaw (26 points) erupted for impressive offensive performances. Both teams knocked down over ten shots from long range. Both teams fell behind by double figures in a game that also managed ten lead changes. An NCAA career record was one rebound away from falling.
Collinsworth had 10 assists and nine rebounds to go along with his 26 points. A tenth rebound would have pushed him ahead of Shaquille O'Neal and Michael Anderson for first all-time on the NCAA career triple-doubles list.
It's hard to ask for more in a game.
It took a while for the teams to find their rhythm — BYU opened one of nine from the field while Belmont was only slightly better at two of nine — but once they did they took off. The Bruins, behind four Bradshaw three pointers in the first ten minutes, grabbed the lead and extended it to double-figures multiple times in the first half.
For a while in the early going Bradshaw was outscoring the Cougars on his own.
The game's leading scorer, freshman guard Nick Emery, answered with threes each time the Bruins went up by ten or more. In just the second start of his career Emery kept the Cougars from falling out of the game in the first half. The Bruins' final double-digit lead came at the 7:02 mark of the first when they led 30-20. After that point Emery and Collinsworth took over.
Three minutes later, after two threes from Emery and two jumpers from Collinsworth it was a tied game.
Coming out of the break the Emery and Collinsworth show continued.
Unforunately for the Bruins, Chase Fischer got involved too. The senior sharpshooter had been in a slump since the season opener, but erupted for all 19 of his points tonight in the second half. Fischer and the Cougars started lighting it up from long range and the Bruins went ice cold. It took over ten minutes for the Bruins to connect from three in the second half. Naturally, it was Bradshaw who knocked down that first shot.
When they weren't knocking down shots the Cougars were able to crash the glass. BYU has been much improved in the rebounding department this season but a late scratch to the Bruins' line-up only helped the Cougars. Amanze Egekeze, one of Belmont's best rebounders, rolled his ankle in warm-ups and was forced both out of the starting five and game as well.
Belmont's rough early season schedule is now behind them, and the Bruins have managed a 4-3 to date with losses to Arizona State, Evansville and now BYU. They still have two shots to pick up quality wins this season as they'll face Valparaiso twice before conference play.
For BYU the tough stretch has just begun. Sitting at 4-1 the Cougars will not face a team ranked outside of the top-200 in Ken Pomeroy's rankings until January 2nd.