The No. 19 Kentucky Wildcats were on upset alert when they faced the Belmont Bruins at home on Saturday, but were able to hold off the pesky Bruins to 93-80 despite trailing at the half. The story of Belmont’s defeat was the lack of point production from Bruins’ star J.J. Mann. Despite averaging nearly 18 points a game, Mann only scored 9 points.
After two back-to-back losses to bad teams from the Summit League, the South Dakota State Jackrabbits (7-7) and the Denver Pioneers (5-6), Belmont needed to beat Kentucky. Now, the pressure is on to win the Ohio Valley Conference to make it to the 2014 NCAA Tournament.
Belmont’s resume would be 2014 NCAA Tournament ready if it wasn’t for the three-game losing streak. A great win against the North Carolina Tar Heels and two good wins against the Middle Tennessee State Blue Raiders and Indiana State Sycamores, put the Bruins in great position to go to the Big Dance. A three-game losing streak, even with Kentucky thrown into the mix, will be extremely difficult to overcome if they want a 2014 NCAA Tournament at-large selection.
The Bruins must get it together, now. Living behind the three-point line is great, but, if Mann doesn’t have a big game, then they aren’t able to keep up scoring against top opposition. Belmont has a lot of work to do, but hung with Kentucky in arguably the Wildcats’ best performance of the season. The Bruins are still giant killers and, if they can get back into the 2014 NCAA Tournament, then expect huge upsets on the horizon.