ASHWAUBENON, Wis. -- Craig Bradshaw scored a career-high 25 points and Drew Winkler added 15 as Belmont beat short-handed Green Bay 80-65 Tuesday night in the first round of the NIT.
Belmont (25-9) had a slim 37-33 first-half advantage before ending the half on a 12-4 run to go up 49-37. The Bruins increased the lead to 58-39, and Green Bay (24-7) got no closer than seven late in the game. Belmont finished on an 8-0 run as Green Bay didn't score in the final 1:56."It's a big win for us. It's a big win because of the stage and the national tournament and a lot of tradition," Belmont coach Rick Byrd said. "It's also a big win because of the team and the season Green Bay had this year."The Phoenix were without leading scorer and Horizon League player of the year Keifer Sykes, and Belmont took advantage of his absence. Sykes, who averaged 20.3 points per game during the regular season, injured his left ankle in the Horizon League semifinal loss on March 8. He was ruled out during the Phoenix's afternoon shoot-around.Without its floor leader, Green Bay committed a season-high 21 turnovers and the Bruins scored 23 points off those turnovers. While the fourth-seeded Phoenix were giving up the ball, the fifth-seeded Bruins gradually built their lead."We felt that if (Sykes) had a hard time running up and down the floor it was going to be hard for him to play, especially in a game like this," Green Bay coach Brian Wardle said. "Alec (Brown) said it, we felt confident we could still come in here and win and play well. We've got a lot of talent on this team and we weren't able to put it all together."Greg Mays scored 15 points to lead Green Bay, which lost back-to-back games for the first time all season. Belmont, the Ohio Valley Conference regular-season champions, won for the eighth time in nine games."One of the things I was really worried about is they do a lot of different things on offense and we're the kind of team that will adjust defensively and guard different actions in different ways," Byrd said. "But with one day of practice and one night of scouting, we didn't have a chance. We did talk about being more aggressive, taking a few more chances, not being afraid to defend. . I don't think we did anything (differently), we were just more active."