NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Patrick Miller scored 23 points and Jay Harris added a career-high 19, but the Tennessee State men’s basketball team fell to Belmont, 73-71, on Thursday night in the Curb Event Center.
Miller finished 8-for-21 (38 percent) from the field and four assists while Harris was 5-of-9 (56 percent) and 7-for-7 from the charity stripe.
M.J. Rhett recorded his 13th double-double this season with 10 points and a personal-best 19 rebounds.
True freshman Jamonte Graham also finished with 10 points and his 4-for-8 line helped Tennessee State (3-24, 2-11 OVC) shoot 42.2 percent for the game.
Belmont (20-8, 11-2 OVC) was paced by J.J. Mann’s 21 points and Reece Chamberlain added 19.
Strong shooting (60 percent) and five Tennessee State turnovers allowed the Bruins to take an early 18-7 lead. Nick Smith nailed BU’s third three of the game at the 13:12 mark to end the run, prompting TSU head coach Travis Williams to burn a timeout.
Later in the period, Miller hit a contested triple and Chaed Wellian was gifted an easy lay-up on TSU’s next trip down the floor. This time, it was Belmont head coach Rick Byrd’s turn to take a timeout to regroup with his team up, 25-17 with just over eight minutes to play before halftime.
The Tigers continued their charge after the stoppage and a Miller layup at the 6:22 mark capped a 13-0 TSU scoring stretch that put Big Blue down by just two, 25-23.
The Bruins finally woke up from their five-minute drought and quickly went back up by seven. However, a three-pointer by with a minute to go got the Tigers within one, 34-33, before BU drained three straight to head into the locker room with a four-point cushion.
Harris led the Tigers with 11 points during the first 20 minutes, and seven first half boards from Rhett gave TSU a 19-12 advantage on the glass.
The Tigers came out of the break strong, and an 8-2 run that lasted the first four minutes of the period had them in front for the first time all night at 41-39.
BU fought back and scored nine straight to re-take the lead, 48-41, before Williams called time.
The Tigers were still down nine when Miller and Rhett each made a pair of freebies to make the score 61-56. The hoops made TSU 11-of-12 from the charity stripe with seven minutes to play (92 percent).
TSU was still down five with 2:46 to go when Harris converted a layup, was fouled, and made the ensuing free throw to put the Tigers down by just two, 67-65.
That proved to be the closest TSU could get, as the Tigers couldn’t string together consecutive baskets down the stretch.
TSU crushed Belmont on the boards, 41-27, but had 15 turnovers.
Tennessee State will have a full week off before squaring off against SIUE on Feb. 20 for Senior Night. Tip-off for that contest is scheduled for 7 p.m.