It was Bradshaw. It was always Bradshaw.
It was one for the ages in Athens on Saturday night. There is a reason that good athletic programs schedule one another early in the season. For games like this. Belmont's Craig Bradshaw and Ohio's Javarez Willis duked it out for forty minutes with the former and his Bruins emerging with an 83-81 win after Bradshaw hit a runner (just two of his 42 points) with 0.2 seconds remaining in the game.
Stevie Taylor said about the winner in the postgame presser. "We just gave him a run at the basket and he made a pretty good play."
The action packed second-half featured ties and lead changes galore, with neither team picking up large leads. An emphatic putback dunk from Bobcat freshman Ryan Taylor knotted things up at 71-all with 4:07 left in the contest. It was the basket that kept those in the Convocation Center in attendance on their toes the rest of the night, even as neither team could build more than a five-point lead in the second half.
From there, Maurice Ndour made his presence felt after having been an afterthought in the scoring column for most of the night. Ndour put home a a layup, an and-one layup, and a dunk over a span from the 2:40 mark until the dunk with 53 seconds remaining that brought Athens to an uproar. The dunk put Ohio up 79-77, but it was short-lived.
Belmont Head Coach Rick Byrd's Belmont team responded, (as they so often do) with 3-pointer from forward Nick Smith (he was 5-10 from beyond the arc on the night) to go up one with 32 seconds remaining. A missed layup from Willis seemed to spell the end for Ohio as Ndour was forced to pick up his fifth foul, but after Holden Mobley only knocked down one of two from the line, Antonio Campbell plucked one off the board and passed the ball out to Willis.The senior guard, who had a career-night, did not hesitate to take the ball to the hoop once more, this time laying the ball in with his right hand from the left side of the hoop, just barely over the outstretched hand of the bigger Bradshaw. The shot fell through the net, and brought everything even once more at 81. It was then that Bradshaw hit the dagger.
"We had a kid score 42 points on us, that clearly is going to be the cause for examination on tape, but make no mistake about it, that was a great performance by him," said Phillips.
It was a masterful first half for Belmont's Craig Bradshaw. An incredible game overall. The athletic junior guard netted nineteen points in the first twenty minutes alone. Bradshaw scorched the Ohio nets in a beautiful show of marksmanship, finishing with five made 3-pointers in the half. Evan Bradds picked up all eight of his points ten points by missing just one of his five first-half attempts.
Stevie Taylor rewarded his coach for having the trust in him to start the senior guard after a 0-7 shooting performance in his last game against Arkansas Pine-Bluff. Taylor exuded confidence from the tip, and took shots early and often. His twelve first-half points (seventeen on the night), and five assists helped keep Ohio up with the red-hot Bruins.
"With me, it has been a rough start. The past three games and going away for Thanksgiving kind of took my mind off of basketball, and I wanted to come with a different kind of focus in this game," said Taylor.
Willis finished with 25 points on 10 of 19 shooting (5 of 13 from 3-point land). His double-clutch daggers with hands in his face were a thing of beauty (editorializing away). Ndour only got going in the aforementioned run, and finished with nine points on the evening, and added 10 rebounds and four assists.
"That's a good kid man, he can play," said Willis about Bradshaw. "He got hot, and once you get hot, anybody that gets hot knows how hard it can get to stop you."
Belmont shot 14-30 on the night on 3-pointers, while Ohio made just 9 of 28. As a result of feeding the ball inside less than usual, Ohio finished with only 10 free throw attempts (and made six).
"After a win, you try to learn something. After a loss you try to learn something," said Phillips. "A huge step was taken forward tonight offensively. Huge step. Period. "