The Byrd Cage

Archive for December, 2011|Monthly archive page

Scott Saunders Goes Beast Mode: Belmont Beats Austin Peay 77-67

In Game Posts on December 22, 2011 at 3:42 pm

Saunders’ double-double leads Belmont to victory

Quick Review

On Thursday night, Belmont showed a strength against Austin Peay it had been lacking in the past few games-  strong rebounding and hard, efficient, under-the-basket play.  Scott Saunders recorded 23 points and had 11 rebounds, leading Belmont’s win and snapping their two game losing streak.

With J.J. Mann only playing 21 minutes and scoring six, the perimeter was handled by Hanlen, Clark, and Johnson all scoring over 10 points each.  The focus was Saunders.  And Saunders performed.

Quick Thoughts

While Austin Peay has only won 3 games and really cannot be considered a top opponent in the Ohio Valley Conference, this was an important win for Belmont as far as the strategy Coach Byrd laid out and the Bruins executed.  If you read my last article after the loss at Marshall, I highlighted the importance of Belmont’s game below the basket, and how it was lacking.

The only confusion I take away from this game is that we were still out-rebounded 33-32 by Austin Peay.  Saunders dominated when he got the rebound, but the untold story here was his success at the foul line (he went 9-12 there).

While no game is ever perfect, and the lack of rebounding domination may be something I should stop harping on and realize we are just not that kind of team, Saunders’ smart, physical, and efficient play is something we need to see in the rest of the games this season to be able to win.

The Good:  

Scott Saunders.

The Bad:

Still out-rebounded 33-32.

The Ugly:

3P%- 35.3.  We are still outside the top 150 in this percentage.








Belmont Basketball: Uh-Oh.

In Features on December 20, 2011 at 3:49 pm

It’s been a while, I know.  I apologize to my myriad readership around the globe on my absenteeism, but life’s been crazy.    There also may be something big in the works, but-i’m going to keep that on the down-low until something actually happens.  But that’s not what this site is about- this site is about the Belmont Bruins.

Bracket-Busting Bruins?

Oh, the Bruins.  I last left us previewing Kennesaw State.  We were 3-2 at that time, with a close loss at Duke and an impressive win against MTSU and the WORLD was our oyster, right?  Well that was then.

This is now.

At that time we were ranked 8th in the NCAA in scoring- it seemed like nothing could stop us.

Christmas was ahead and there were some legitimate non-conference match-ups that needed to be won in a dominant fashion before the conference match-ups in the New Year-

And, well, this December hasn’t felt very full of that Christmas cheer if you are a Bruins fan.

Here is a quick glance at what December has looked like for the Bruins;

  • 4-3 record with losses at MTSU, at Miami of Ohio, at Marshall
  • We have actually improved in our 3 point shooting percentage from 31.8 in November to 37.1 in December
  • We have barely out-rebounded opponents, 225-214.  (Not much of a change from first 5 games, 175-172)
  • Brandon Baker has improved his shooting tremendously, from November (FGM-FGA  1-17, and 3PM-3PA 0-12 to a rather respectable 20-44 and 11-29 respectively in December).  That’s huge.
  • Ian Clark’s FG% has dropped from .526 in November to .368 in December.  UH-oh.

I could go on and on here with statistics-but they aren’t really proving anything, other than our depth looking a little better than it used to.   Which is good.  But it also show’s our guard play dwindling.

Ian Clark’s numbers tell the story here, I think.  While Kerron’s numbers haven’t drastically changed liked Ian’s, our drive-to-the-hoop mentality that was scarce at the beginning of the season-really just isn’t there anymore.  Our game is our 3 now, and our big men are not dominating against the teams that they really should (see: Memphis in contrast to Towson and MTSU).

Multiple sources online after the Marshall loss last night declared Belmont officially out of the at-large bid competition after the loss to Marshall.  But- anyone who knows anything about Belmont knows we were out of the at-large bid competition when we lost to Duke and Memphis- but that’s beside the point.

This Belmont team was projected for the big times this year.  As far as Mid-Major programs, it wasn’t strange to hear Belmont’s name mentioned below Xavier, Gonzaga, and St. Mary’s programs as being a legitimate bracket-busting team to watch.  But with losses to teams that we shouldn’t lose to, and this Belmont team playing the toughest out of conference schedule that I have ever seen, the spotlight has started to look elsewhere, and the steam in the NCAA train has suddenly been lost.

Before you start shouting at me for being so damn hard on these guys, i’m just stating the facts.  This Belmont team is not playing to its potential.  However, the season is not lost.  In the A-Sun, the Conference Tournament matters, and Belmont will be looking to improve on all sides of its game to gain that bracket-busting steam back just in time for the tournament.  That being said, it’s time to look ahead and what Belmont needs to do to get back on that track.

30 Win Season?  Let’s Win the Conference Tournament First

Belmont now has a 7-5 overall record, 2-0 against the A-Sun.  It’s time to be realistic.  This team has problems with the inside game and our three-point shooting is not going swimmingly.  It doesn’t take a professional basketball analyst like myself to tell you that this equation does not equal wins.

Let me write it so you mathematicians can understand better.

Rough Inside Game +Mediocre Outside Game = Bad Games

That one is easy because you don’t have to deal with tricky exponents!

But seriously, its time for a new segment-

Byrd’s Prescription

I like to picture my Rick Byrd as a Pediatrician.  He is smiley and genial in most situations, but on game day he has a steely reserve that could scare the purple out of Don Meyer.  He is a pediatrician because he is kind and kids like him and respect him.  Kids aren’t worried about going to the doctor with him because he has suckers and Highlights magazines, but he secretly is the most genius doctor in the world-yet he loves working with kids so much he didn’t take the job he was offered as the Director of Stem Cell Research at MD Anderson where he could make billions of dollars.  You know?  He knows exactly what to prescribe because he is a genius, but he isn’t too disconnected from kids to meet them on their level.  That’s how I imagine my Rick Byrd.

Without further ado, here is what I picture Dr. Rick Byrd’s prescription for the rest of year;

  • A strong dose of discipline at night before bed.
    • This team has looked sloppy, giving up silly turnovers and forcing plays when ahead, losing control of games at critical times.  It’s time to go back to the beginning, run games with confidence.
  • A double dose of hard, drive-to-the-rim plays.
    • Belmont’s lack of a being a legitimate three-point shooting team (ranked 147 in the nation in 3P%)  so far this year should lead to a different strategy.  At the beginning of the year I was skeptical on this front, and now I stand by my conviction.  Saunders is big enough to compete under the rim.  We need to use him more.
  •   A small dose at all three meals of controlling the pace of the game.
    • No, Belmont is not Wisconsin.  But we can control the game.  We even showed signs of that at Cameron Indoor this year.  Belmont’s maturity is the thing we need to utilize more in our game.  Speeding up the game to try to command the floor and making sloppy turnovers breaks confidence, and when away, shows the game can be lost just like that.  Belmont can and will control the floor throughout the rest of the season to win their games.
And that does it for Byrd’s Prescription this week.
I’d like to know what you think Byrd’s Prescription should be.  Let me know in the comments!
We still have a long season ahead of us, and I know the Bruins can turn it up and turn it out.
Until next time,

Belmont beats Trevecca, 86-61; Previewing Kennesaw State

In Game Posts on December 1, 2011 at 5:11 pm


Chad Lang, 6-11 freshmen, was perfect on the boards against Trevecca, scoring 8 points during five minutes of play.

Belmont Wins Home Opener

In a game where I would have liked the score to be more like 86-22, the Bruins ended up beating the Trojans by 25 in a second half that showed domination, that is,  in stark contrast to a rather messy first half.

Belmont is ranked 14th in the NCAA in points per game now, but really didn’t look like that team in the first half.  After turning the ball over 11 times in the first half and being basically evenly matched in rebounds (Belmont only had 1 more rebound than Trevecca heading to the locker room),  Michael France, the Trojan’s star player who put up 28 in their game before Belmont, put up 14 in the first half sending Trevecca into the locker room only down 10 in a game that seemed a little bit closer than any Belmont fan would like to see.

But the second half was another story.  Belmont held France to only 5 points, out-rebounded the Trojans, and put up 46 points to Trevecca’s 31.


The Good

Belmont scored 86 points, making them the 14th ranked team in the NCAA in points scored.  Mind you, this is after playing teams like Duke and Memphis.

The Bad

That first half.

The Ugly

Belmont turned the ball over 18 times to a NAIA team.  (We only turned the ball over 17 times against Duke)




Kennesaw State at Belmont:  First Conference Matchup Preview



Kennesaw State comes into its first conference game of the year with a 2-3 record and a miserable loss against Wisconsin,  85-31 (other losses come from Auburn and South Carolina State).  They are averaging about 20 points less a game than the Bruins and bring a new head coach, Lewis Preston, to the team as the fourth in franchise history.  He comes from Penn State as an assistant, but the most notable spot on his resume might be his time under Coach Donovan during back to back National Championships.

The School

-Mascot is the Owl

-Third largest in Georgia boasting a 24,100 student enrollment

-384 acre campus northwest of Atlanta

-Offers 80 degree programs

-Founded in 1963


Players to Watch








Markeith Cummings, 6-7 Junior Guard.  Cummings is averaging 18 points a game this season.







Spencer Dixon, 6-0 Senior Guard.

Dixon hit six 3-pointers in their loss against SC State and scored 26 total.


The Gameplan

As always, my guess here is as good as yours (or worse).  In the Trevecca game, I was surprised at how little we attacked below the basket in the first half.  In the second, we were more aggressive down-low, and quickly found our game working.  I would like to see that again in this game offensively.  Defensively, guarding the perimeter against Cummings and Dixon will be our major issue, and getting more rebounds and keeping turnovers to a minimum will be an important goal.  If we play this team like we did Trevecca in the first half, we could see the game getting away from us.

That being said, I don’t see us playing like that again at home.



All-Time Series: Belmont Leads, 10-2



Belmont, Belmont, gooooo Belmont!