Sports, Thrill of Victory

Three-Point Play: Belmont continues march towards OVC perfection

Another week, another spectacular edition of the Three-Point Play sitting right here in front of your eyes.

The snow has melted in Nashville, which means that you are now free to move about the city and watch some very good basketball teams do their thing.

Let’s jump right into what’s happening on the hardwood in the Music City.

Craig Bradshaw continues to be a huge reason behind Belmont's stellar OVC play this season.

Craig Bradshaw continues to be a huge reason behind Belmont’s stellar OVC play this season. PHOTO BY MATTHEW MAXEY

1. Belmont staying ahead of the pack in the OVC

NFL teams aspire to go 16-0. It’s the mark of an undefeated season.

The Belmont Bruins have lost games this season. But in OVC play? Not a single one.

Rick Byrd’s team has embraced the favorite role by jumping out to an 8-0 start in conference play, and yet again, they are the team that everyone in the OVC is chasing.

The Bruins had a big week with wins over Tennessee State and Jacksonville state, which helped keep the conference streak alive.

While the first of those two was a high-scoring classic that saw Belmont win 103-95, the latter saw star forward Evan Bradds score 30 points and grab 11 rebounds.

It was the kind of week that we’ve come to expect from this program. No matter the situation, the Bruins find ways to win.

Every single year, we all wonder if this is the year that Belmont finally captures that elusive NCAA tournament win. There’s still a long way to go, and winning the conference is a must before that thought should take up space in anyone’s mind.

But given the makeup of this team, there’s simply no question that it has what it takes to knock off most power conference teams on any given night.

Bradds has been fantastic all season long and is now shooting an insane 72% from the floor. Then there’s pre-season OVC Player of the Year, Craig Bradshaw. He’s been just as good in once again proving that he’s among the best that the league has to offer.

Belmont is a total team from top to bottom. The Bruins limit mistakes and take good shots. That’s a formula for success in college basketball.

Next up for Byrd’s team is a Saturday night road clash with Tennessee Tech, which is arguably the biggest challenge Belmont has faced in the OVC part of the schedule.

But if we’ve learned anything from what they’ve done thus far, the Bruins will be more than ready for what may come their way in Cookeville.

If Damian Jones plays like he did against Florida, Vandy has a great chance of winning at Texas on Saturday. PHOTO BY MATTHEW MAXEY

If Damian Jones plays like he did against Florida, Vandy has a great chance of winning at Texas on Saturday. PHOTO BY MATTHEW MAXEY

2. Vandy hoping to build off of first quality win

It took a while, but it finally happened.

The Vanderbilt Commodores picked up their first “quality” win of the season against the Florida Gators on Tuesday night, which had been quite the long wait for the team and its fans.

Vandy has squandered numerous opportunities this season to pick up wins that would help its case in making the tournament, so beating Florida was about as must-win as it gets.

However, the job is far from finished.

The Commodores will head to Austin on Saturday to take on an extremely talented Texas team. With Shaka Smart in his first year as head coach, the Longhorns have seemingly exceeded expectations. Winning that game won’t be easy.

But Vandy heads into it in a much better situation than it would have been had it lost to the Gators.

The pressure of getting that first big win is gone. Sure, there’s still a lot of work to be done to guarantee a tournament berth. But just getting that win is a huge momentum boost.

Vandy isn’t playing its best basketball of the season. The loss at Kentucky was extremely disappointing. And the Florida game was ugly from start to finish.

The good news? The game against the Gators showed what Vandy fans have known all along: when Damian Jones wants to take over a game, he can.

Jones had a monster performance with 20 points and 12 rebounds, and set the tone early on with an aggressive approach in the paint. He used that early momentum to continue to play with aggressiveness and confidence throughout the game. The result? One of his best games of the season.

Jones will need to use that same type of momentum and confidence if Vandy wants to leave Texas with a victory.

TSU guard Tahjere McCall will lead the Tigers into a key OVC game against Jacksonville State. PHOTO BY MATTHEW MAXEY

TSU guard Tahjere McCall will lead the Tigers into a key OVC game against Jacksonville State. PHOTO BY MATTHEW MAXEY

3. TSU stumbling after Belmont loss

It was easily the biggest game of the season for the TSU Tigers.

A road trip to Belmont is never easy, but TSU put up a great fight before ultimately losing a pivotal OVC matchup earlier this week.

No worries, just one game. And it was Belmont, who just refuses to lose right now.

Except the problem was that the Tigers found themselves staring down another difficult road game just days later at Tennessee Tech.

It wasn’t the result that head coach Dana Ford was looking for from his team.

TSU lost an 81-79 nailbiter on Thursday, marking only the second time this season that the Tigers had lost back-to-back games.

But when you consider the competition, it’s not all that disappointing. TSU lost two straight to Illinois State and Tennessee back in December before this two-game stretch against two of the top OVC teams in Belmont and Tennessee Tech.

It was a challenging week without a doubt.

All that matters now though is how TSU responds. The Tigers will play an afternoon game at Jacksonville State on Saturday, and will obviously look to get back on track in the conference.

If TSU can win that one, then it finally gets a chance to make even more movement in the OVC with three straight home games.

And-1:

After a long and painful road, the Lipscomb Bison find themselves riding a hot streak.

Lipscomb won its third game in a row on Wednesday when it went to New Jersey and topped NJIT, which moved the Bison into the top half of the Atlantic Sun standings.

The Bison will look to keep the momentum going when they host South Carolina Upstate on Saturday.

Anything else I should know about in mid-state hoops this week? http://www.twitter.com/theblakelovell.