Belmont tops Murray State to win OVC tourney
by Mike Organ, USA TODAY Sports
Belmont’s Kerron Johnson hit a short jumper to send the Ohio Valley Conference championship into overtime and then another with 1.2 seconds remaining in the extended period giving the Bruins a 70-68 win over Murray State.
The victory, which came at Municipal Auditorium and before an ESPN2 audience, sends Belmont back to the NCAA Tournament for the third consecutive year, this time with the OVC’s automatic berth, and for the sixth time in the last eight years.
Johnson, who finished with 12 points and six assists, was named the tournament’s Most Valuable Player.
The Bruins, who joined the OVC this year, had earned the Atlantic Sun’s automatic bid the previous five times they went to the NCAA Tournament.
Belmont rallied in the final 1:56 of regulation by outscoring the Racers 9-4 before Johnson, who was playing with four fouls, got open for a bucket with 9.1 seconds left to tie the game at 62-all.
Latreze Mashatt’s 3-point shot for the Racers at the buzzer was way off.
Murray took a 66-65 lead in the overtime on a pair of free throws by Isaiah Canaan and went up 68-66 on a bucket by Stacy Wilson with 1:01 remaining.
Ian Clark tied it for Belmont with a pair of free throws with 46 seconds left.
Canaan, who shared the OVC Co-Player of the Year honor with Clark, dribbled the ball off his foot and it bounced across the half-court line give Belmont possession with 25 seconds remaining in the overtime.
Johnson took the inbound pass and dribbled until the the clock was down to five seconds when he finally penetrated the defense.
He drove left and put up a 10-foot shot over Jeffery Moss which dropped in.
J.J. Mann led Belmont with 18 points, Trevor Noack added 14 and Clark scored 11.
Stacy Wilson led Murray with 23 points. Canaan added 22.
Clark joined Johnson on the All-Tournament team. Canaan and Wilson also made the team along with Tennessee State’s Kellen Thornton.
Mike Organ writes for The Tennessean, a Gannett property.
PHOTOS: AUTOMATIC BIDS IN THE NCAA TOURNAMENT… [For more on Belmont Bruins top Murray State in OT to win OVC tourney, click here.]