The Byrd Cage

Couldn’t Make It To Stanford Last Night? We Got It Covered.

In Game Posts on November 19, 2012 at 1:18 pm

This guy shaved his head and then Belmont beat him last night 70-62.

It was a fantastic night to be one of the handful of Belmont Bruins fans at Maples Pavilion in Stanford, CA on Sunday.  As the Cardinal players, coaches, and fans grew subsequently confused, frustrated, and angry when the Bruins refused to relinquish their double-digit advantage through much of middle section of the contest, there was a growing sense among the red and blue faithful that we weren’t just playing the better game—we were the better team.  Belmont made the Pac-12 homesteaders and defending NIT champs look the aspiring mid-major for the full 40 minutes and fought off a furious push from the Cardinal midway through the second half—despite potentially dire foul trouble— to earn a tough and important road win by the score of 70-62. The Bruins improved to 3-0 on the season and handed the Cardinal (3-1) their first loss, ending the nation’s longest win streak at 8 games.

It would be hyperbolic to suggest that Belmont is talented enough to compete for a top spot in the Pac-12 this year were they to swap conferences with Stanford in some kind of Thanksgiving 2012 Freaky Friday scenario, but I am going to suggest just that nonetheless, if only for the sake of argument. Maybe I’m still hopped up because Dr. Bobby Fisher recognized me when I found him at halftime, but let me make my case: Stanford is returning four starters (including centerpiece Chasson Randle) from a team that narrowly missed out on an at-large NCAA tourney bid last season, and instead settled for an impressive NIT run that culminated in a stomping of Minnesota by the score of 75-51 in the championship game at Madison Square Garden in New York. Stanford’s top three scorers from that game all returned this season, and the Cardinal were picked to finish fourth in the Pac-12 behind Arizona, UCLA, and Washington.  Stanford had a lot of momentum coming into Sunday night’s contest, and given that Belmont doesn’t fly under any radars anymore, I’m sure they were prepared.

But all hypothetical conjecture aside, there was an irrefutable fact to be gleaned from the action Sunday night: Belmont outmatched the Cardinal in almost every respect. Stanford had no answer for Kerron Johnson, who was able to slash to the basket almost at will, sometimes dishing to a wide open teammate for an easy two and often taking care of business himself. Johnson even earned some grudging admirers among the cantankerous Stanford alums in my vicinity. Ian Clark was also superb, carrying the Bruins through a crucial stretch in the second half when the outcome looked to hang in the balance. And on that note: when the going got tough late in the game, the Bruins responded with commensurate toughness.  The environment in Maples Pavilion was hostile (despite a relatively thin holiday crowd) through much of the second half, particularly when Stanford took its first lead since the opening minutes with 8:20 to go, and still the Bruins refused to fold.  Whether or not this win proves to be important come Selection Sunday remains to be seen, but it certainly isn’t going to hurt. We’ll know much more about Stanford after they compete in the Battle for Atlantis tournament against some of the nation’s top teams this week in the Bahamas.  And as for Belmont, an even more daunting non-conference challenge awaits on December 15 when they visit the Kansas Jayhawks.

But let’s not look ahead too far; tonight was yet another milestone for a program that just keeps getting better, and the Bruins have plenty to be thankful for on Thursday.  For Belmont to win impressively on the road against this caliber of competition while shooting just 36 percent from the field and 26 percent from the behind the arc marks a new era in the rise of the Bruins as a name in men’s college basketball on a national stage. Rick Byrd has his team looking formidable early in the season, and if Sunday night’s performance is any indication, Belmont should expect good results in their inaugural campaign through the Ohio Valley Conference the next few months.

And after that? March.

-Luke Barnhart


The Byrd Cage welcomes special guest Luke Barnhart.

Luke Barnhart earned his BA from Belmont University in 2009, majoring in Religion and the Arts, and is currently pursuing his PhD in English Literature at Stanford University.  He shares a mystical bond with the Bruins, as his first year at Belmont coincided with their first trip to the Big Dance. May there be many more, Amen.

  1. It will be interesting to see where this Cardinal team ends up in conference. They sure did not look like a PAC 12 conference contender last night. Clearly their shooting percentages should even out and improve, but they had a lot of open looks. Belmont did not ‘lock’ them down by any stretch of the imagination. I’m not sure Reece has any ankles left. That was a strange game. Belmont got crushed on the glass and from the foul line and still won. Hopefully Stanford makes a push in conference, we need that RPI BOOST!

  2. Excellent right up Luke. Great to see you last night. I’d like to make you an offer you can’t refuse: Drop out of Stanford and I’ll give you an honorary doctorate of your chosing! Not sold? I’ll tear down International Market and build a 15 story building and name it, “The Luke Barnhart Institute of Blogonomics”. I’ll even retrofit all the public water fountains in the building to dispense that blue Mountain Dew you get at Taco Bell – ‘Baja Blast’ I think it’s called . . . ANYWHO – Call me. 8 6 7 – 5 3 0 niiiIIIneee

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