MARTIN, Tenn. - - Belmont University men's basketball closed strong in defeating UT Martin, 85-78, Saturday.
Belmont led 37-36 at halftime, but in a game featuring seven ties and 15 lead changes needed huge plays down the stretch to break free from the host Skyhawks.
Sophomore Grayson Murphy (Franklin, Tenn.) nearly recorded a triple-double, leading six Bruins in double figures with 19 points, eight rebounds and 12 assists.
After a slow start, Murphy sparked Belmont offensively with three consecutive driving baskets to give the Bruins a four-point lead.
Consecutive 3-point field goals from sophomore Adam Kunkel pushed the lead to 26-19 at the 5:08 mark and prompted a UT Martin timeout.
Behind the play of Derek Hawthorne, UT Martin got within 37-36 at halftime.
Belmont shot 42 percent (14-for-34) from the field in the opening 20 minutes - including 8-for-19 from 3-point distance.
Kunkel led Belmont with 11 first-half points.
Belmont got a scoring lift off the bench from sophomore Caleb Hollander (Nashville, Tenn.), whose five quick points put the Bruins ahead 44-41 with 17:05 left.
Neither team was able to string together stops and scores, as momentum swung back and forth.
Kunkel capped a 7-0 Belmont run to make the score 60-54 with 9:39 remaining.
But a brief dry spell and scores from Quintin Dove enabled UT Martin to go ahead 67-66 with 3:55 to go.
Following the under four media timeout, a Kunkel baseline 3-pointer gave Belmont a 69-67 lead with 3:47 left.
Then after an exchange of scores, Murphy buried a wing 3-pointer to increase the Belmont lead to 74-69 with 2:23 remaining.
Belmont went 9-for-10 from the free throw line in the final 1:03 to secure the victory.
The Bruins, third nationally in assists per game entering play, handed out 22 assists and made 12 3-point field goals.
Kunkel scored 19, while graduate student Tyler Scanlon (Centreville, Va.) had 14 points.
Muszynski had his fifth double-double with 12 points and 10 rebounds.
Listau had 11, while Hollander added 10.
Dove led UT Martin (5-10, 1-3 OVC) with 24 points.
Belmont won its 100th regular season conference game since joining the OVC in 2013; the Bruins are 100-20 in OVC regular season games.
Belmont (12-5, 3-1 OVC) returns to game action Thursday, Jan. 16 vs. Eastern Kentucky. Tip-off is set for 8 p.m. CT from the Curb Event Center. The game will be broadcast on ESPNU and the ESPN app.