by Mick Lite

Forward Malik Dia collected a game-high 22 points and 10 rebounds powering Belmont to an 86-61 romp past Valparaiso in the first round of the State Farm Missouri Valley Conference Tournament Thursday at the Enterprise Center.

The Bruins, earning their fourth straight victory, improved to 20-12 overall marking the team’s 14th straight 20-plus win campaign as well as the program’s 20th overall 20-plus win season.

Belmont also earned its first ever MVC Tournament win, while advancing to Friday’s quarterfinal round against No 4 seed UNI. Belmont also collected its sixth straight victory against Valparaiso.

Belmont shot 52.4 percent from the floor (33-63), improving its record to 12-2 this season when shot 50 percent or better from the floor. Belmont made 10 three-point baskets, marking the 16th time the Bruins made 10-plus treys in a game including the last four straight.

Valparaiso closed out the season with a 7-25 record. One game after shooting a season-high 52.5 percent from the floor in a win against Illinois State March 3, Valparaiso shot a season-low 27.5 percent (22-80).

Isaiah Stafford led the Beacons with 20 points. Jerome Palm collected his second double-double with 10 points and a career-high 14 rebounds.

Forward Cooper Schwieger, the MVC Freshman of the Year,  who averaged 17 points in two games against Belmont this season, struggled from the floor making just 5 of 15 shots to finish with 12 points.

Belmont made 8 of its first 12 shots to open the game racing to a 21-4 lead. Three straight baskets by Dia in a 56-second span extended the cushion to 31-11 with 10:26 left in the first half.

Belmont increased its lead to 79-37 with 7:51 left in the game following a dunk by Brigham Rogers who finished with a career-high 15 points. Valparaiso did dominate the boards in the second half, while scoring 17 second-chance points compared to two by Belmont.

Website | + posts

Mick Lite served for 12 years in the military and is now an entrepreneur and photographer. Has worked as the official scorer and social media manager for the River City Rascals, Statistician for the Missouri Monsters and St. Louis Attack arena football teams, and as the Team Photographer and social media consultant for the St. Charles Chill, SLU Hockey, St. Louis Slam, and Gateway Grizzlies.

Related Articles