Belmont ends Morehead State basketball’s 12-game win streak
For the first time in a long time, the Morehead State men’s basketball team tasted defeat on Saturday.
Freshman star Johni Broome posted his eighth double-double of the season but Morehead was dominated by Belmont 73-58 in Nashville. The loss snapped a 12-game winning streak for the Eagles.
Broome had 11 points and 13 rebounds, but he hit just four of 13 shots from the field. Belmont’s zone defense made things tough in the post for the 6-foot-10 big man. Ta’lon Cooper scored a team-high 16 for Morehead to go along with five assists and hit two of four shots from beyond the arc. The Eagles went 8-for-22 as a team from long distance.
Grayson Murphy was sensational for Belmont. The junior guard put together the program’s first triple-double since joining Division I in 2001. Murphy scored 13 points to go along with 12 rebounds and 10 assists.
After Morehead cut a 19-point deficit down to single digits late, Murphy scored on consecutive drives to spark an 8-0 run that essentially put the game away. For good measure, he nailed his only three-pointer of the night with 16 seconds to go.
“We just didn’t play very well tonight,” Morehead Coach Preston Spradlin said. “We failed to convert when we got in the paint. We missed some layups and Belmont turned them into points. Their transition game kind of blew it open.”
Belmont (22-1 overall, 16-0 Ohio Valley Conference) won its 19th straight game and went a long way toward locking up a league title. The Bruins now lead second-place Morehead (16-7, 13-3 OVC) by three games with four left in the regular season. The teams will meet again in the regular-season finale for both on Jan. 27 in Morehead.
Belmont shot 48 percent for the game while Morehead shot 33 percent.
“I thought we did some really good things. Only turned the ball over 10 times tonight … in the first half we had 10 assists on 11 made field goals, we did a lot of good things,” Spradlin said. “You’ve got to give Belmont credit, it’s the best game I’ve seen them play all year. We’ve got two weeks, then we get the opportunity to play them again. The question’s going to be, ‘How do we respond after the first loss we’ve had in almost two months?’
“These guys are going to respond. They know we didn’t play our best tonight and they also know that this is a team we can beat. We’ve got some work to do before we get another opportunity to do that.”
After the Eagles evened the game 27-27, Belmont went on a tear. The Bruins hit six straight shots as part of a 14-3 run to end the first half. Murphy flashed into the paint and put back a missed three-pointer at the buzzer to send Belmont into the locker room with a 43-30 lead.
After trailing by as many as 19, Morehead dialed up the defense and clawed back to within single digits late in the second half. A Broome jumper made it 57-49 Belmont with 6:34 to go, but the Bruins responded with a quick 8-0 run over two minutes.
Broome has been quite a force in his first college season. He leads Morehead State in scoring and rebounding and entered Saturday leading the OVC with 1.8 blocks per game.
Spradlin and his staff intended to bring Broome off the bench this year, but that plan got scuttled when 6-foot-8 forward Tyzhaun Claude tore an ACL during practice in November. Broome was asked to grow up fast, and he has delivered.
Following Broome’s 25-point showing in a win over Arkansas State in the third game of the season, the man he replaced in the lineup was quick to claim a share of the credit.
“It was funny, myself and a couple of assistants walked off the court after that game with Tyzhaun Claude and he was very quick to take credit for Johni’s success,” Spradlin said with a laugh. “He said, ‘I got him ready. I told you guys I was gonna get him ready when I went down.’”
Morehead State at UT Martin
When: 5 p.m. Saturday
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Josh Sullivan has worked at the Herald-Leader for more than 10 years in multiple capacities, including as a news assistant, page designer, copy editor and sports reporter. He is a graduate of the University of Kentucky and a Lexington native.
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