ST. LOUIS - - Belmont University men's basketball dropped a 60-55 decision at Saint Louis Saturday.
In a meeting between two NCAA Tournament teams from 2019, a tough, highly-competitive game was expected.
Sophomore Grayson Murphy (Franklin, Tenn.) made a wing 3-pointer to get the Bruins on the board, but the teams combined on 2-for-12 shooting and seven turnovers by the first media timeout.
A determined conventional 3-point play from freshman Ben Sheppard (Atlanta, Ga.) extended the Belmont lead to 9-3 six and a half minutes in.
But soon after graduate student Tyler Scanlon (Centreville, Va.) made a 3-pointer to increase the margin to seven points, sophomore center Nick Muszynski (Pickerington, Ohio) picked up two personal fouls in a five-second span midway through half, forcing him to the sidelines.
Despite the setback to the Bruin offense, Murphy carried the scoring load for Belmont, with darting drives, open court opportunities and timely outside shooting keeping the Bruins well-positioned.
A second effort 3-point play from sophomore Caleb Hollander (Nashville, Tenn.) gave Belmont a 27-26 halftime lead.
Belmont shot 30 percent (9-for-30) from the field and 3-for-14 from 3-point distance in the opening 20 minutes, but rode strong and opportunistic defense to lead.
Belmont head coach Casey Alexander tried to manage Muszynski's fouls, rotating in senior Seth Adelsperger (Peru, Ind.) for efforts on both ends.
After a Javonte Perkins 3-pointer gave the Billikens a 31-27 lead, senior Michael Benkert (Greenwood, Ind.) buried a 3-pointer of his own to cut the margin to one.
From there, consecutive baskets from Murphy and Scanlon pushed Belmont to a 36-32 lead with 15:12 remaining.
As the game wore on, the Billikens relied on the offensive and defensive play of All-Atlantic 10 forward Hasahn French.
Five points from sophomore Adam Kunkel (Hebron, Ky.) gave Belmont a 48-45 lead with 8:25 left, but French continued to work Belmont into foul trouble and controlled the backboards.
In a game marked by 11 ties and 15 lead changes, Belmont got one Adelsperger free throw and a clutch 3-pointer from junior Nick Hopkins (Fayetteville, Tenn.) to go on top 53-51with 5:01 remaining.
Then following a Saint Louis rebounding foul, sophomore Tate Pierson (Brentwood, Tenn.) made two free throws with 4:38 left to increase the lead to four.
But French would assert himself once again down the stretch.
After setting up Perkins for a layin, French would register consecutive blocked shots on Belmont inside shots under four minutes.
A career 35 percent free throw shooter, French made three consecutive free throws to give Saint Louis a 58-55 lead with 1:36 left.
After another French block on a Kunkel drive, Adelsperger would be fouled on the defensive boards with 43 seconds remaining.
As the seventh team foul on the Billikens in the second half, Belmont earned the bonus. But Adelsperger's front end of the one-and-one free throws rimmed off and Saint Louis secured the rebound.
But almost inexplicably, point guard Yuri Collins slowly walked the ball into the frontcourt and Saint Louis was whistled for a 10-second violation with 33 seconds remaining.
Following a Belmont timeout, Saint Louis defended a number of offensive actions well, leading to a Muszynski drive down the right side of the lane. His floating bank shot danced off the rim, but Belmont was awarded possession as the ball went out of bounds with 10.6 seconds remaining.
From there, the Bruins misconnected on a designed play, with Murphy's inbounds pass going deep into the backcourt. Scanlon recovered the basketball, sped into the frontcourt, but could not find an opening for a potential game-tying 3-point attempt.
His contested shot with three seconds left rimmed off and Saint Louis would be fouled with under one second remaining.
Jordan Goodwin's free throws with 0.3 seconds left provided the final outcome.
All told, Belmont shot 31 percent (19-for-62) from the field - including 7-for 24 from 3-point distance.
Murphy led Belmont with 17 points and nine rebounds.
But French was the story, with 21 points, 24 rebounds and seven blocked shots.
Belmont limited Saint Louis to 36 percent shooting and forced 14 turnovers.
Belmont (4-2) returns to game action Tuesday, Nov. 26 at Eastern Washington. Tip-off is set for 8 p.m. CT. The live play-by-play of Voice of the Bruins Kevin Ingram can be heard on the Bruin Sports Network. In-game updates will be available via Twitter @BelmontMBB.
Belmont University men's basketball has earned postseason invitations 13 of the last 14 seasons, including eight berths to the NCAA Tournament. The Bruins have won 17 conference championships since 2006 - third-most nationally over that span (Gonzaga, Kansas). Belmont is one of only six NCAA Division I programs outside the Power 5 to post Top 100 RPIs nine consecutive seasons (BYU, Gonzaga, Saint Mary's (CA), San Diego State, Wichita State). Belmont is one of only nine NCAA Division I programs to win 19 or more games 14 consecutive seasons (BYU, Duke, Gonzaga, Kansas, Louisville, Michigan State, North Carolina, San Diego State). Belmont University men's basketball boasts an NCAA-leading 17 CoSIDA Academic All-America selections since 2001 and is the only NCAA Division I program to make the NCAA Academic Progress Rate (APR) Honor Roll every year of existence.