It certainly lived up to the hype. Isaiah Canaan had 26 points and six assists. Ian Clark went for 22 points and four assists. The game was tied in the final minute.
Unfortunately for Belmont, the ball didn’t bounce their way.
Belmont erased a 16 point second half deficit as Ian Clark buried a pair of threes on back-to-back possessions to tie the game at 74 with just over a minute left, but Murray State star Isaiah Canaan answered with a three-ball of his own to give the Racers the lead back. On the ensuing possession, Clark got doubled coming off of a ball-screen and lost the ball out of bounds, all but ensuring that the Racers only had to make their free throws to ice the game.
The Racers did.
And the Bruins were sent back to Nashville after suffering their first loss of the Ohio Valley season.
It will be a tough loss for Belmont to swallow, and not just because they battled back from 16 down in one of the toughest places in the OVC to play against the reigning league champs that just so happen to have an all-american on their roster.
The Bruins have an outside shot at earning an at-large bid this season if they don’t win the OVC’s automatic bid. They had a great RPI heading into tonight (21st) and a win at Stanford, over Middle Tennessee State and, well, not much else. It may be a weak bubble and the Bruins may have a strong RPI, but they still have a number of games against teams with relatively low RPIs to make it through. And with a schedule that weak, a high RPI may not be enough to earn that at-large bid.
And that’s why the loss to Murray State hurt. The Bruins might be able to afford. They might not be able to. We don’t really know.
But what we do know is that their margin for error is now that much smaller.