Dansby scores 16 to lead Belmont to third consecutive NCAA bid

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) -- Belmont coach Rick Byrd put a sign outside his team's locker room at the beginning of the season that read "Make History."

The Bruins earned their place in the record books Saturday night.

Shane Dansby scored 16 points to help send Belmont to its third straight NCAA Tournament with a 79-61 victory over Jacksonville, becoming the first team in league history to win three consecutive Atlantic Sun tournament titles.

"I'm not one for gimmicks," Byrd said. "I guess just looking through the A-Sun record book at some point, I guess after we won two in a row, I wondered what the record was. And looking through it, in the long history of this conference, no one had ever won three years in a row."

Justin Hare and Matthew Dotson added 14 points each and Alex Renfroe 10 for the Bruins.

Aric Brooke led Jacksonville with 13 points and Lehmon Colbert and Travis Cohn had 11 each for the Dolphins (18-13), who were playing in their first Atlantic Sun title game.

The 3-point shot has long been a staple for the Bruins, who led the league in shooting -- and were fourth in the nation -- from beyond the arc this season. They were right on par in their biggest game of the year.

Playing just a few miles from campus, the Bruins (25-8) made 13 3-pointers, shooting 44 percent from long range. Their hot starts to each half were too much for Jacksonville.

"We've shot the ball well all year," Dotson said. "We know we're a good shooting team. We're shooters. I don't think we ever going to let one game change that."

Dansby's 3-pointer with a little more than 16 minutes left capped a 13-4 start to the second half for Belmont. The sparse crowd was filled with mostly Belmont fans, who had Jacksonville rattled before the game took shape.

Keaton Belcher's 3-pointer with 9:07 left in the first half put the Bruins ahead 27-12, capping an 18-4 run from which the Dolphins couldn't recover.

"Belmont, their whole team shoots 3s. I'm not used to having to fight through flare screens, down screens," Jacksonville forward Marcus Allen said. "Belmont can really shoot 3s, all 13 or 14 of them."

In all, it was a miserable day for the Florida school.

Besides a winter storm that dumped heavy snow outside Lipscomb's Allen Arena earlier in the day, the men's and women's basketball teams lost in their respective tournament finals -- and blew chances for the school's first NCAA Tournament appearance.

The Jacksonville women lost 75-72 to East Tennessee State earlier in the day.

The Dolphins struggled in their first title game in front of a nationally televised audience, turning the ball over 17 times and shooting just 36 percent from the floor.

"I think we just ran into a hot shooting team," Jacksonville coach Cliff Warren said.

The third consecutive conference championship for the Bruins only adds to what has been a stellar season for the state of Tennessee.

Memphis, Vanderbilt and Tennessee -- all ranked in the Top 25 -- will likely join the Bruins in the NCAA Tournament regardless of the outcome in their league tournaments. Along with Austin Peay's 82-64 victory over Tennessee State in the Ohio Valley Conference championship, at least five schools from the Volunteer State are headed to the Big Dance.

"It's been an unusually good year for the state," Byrd said. "Those teams being what they've been, we've been mentioned quite a bit. ... It's brought a lot of attention to Tennessee basketball."