Belmont senior Ian Clark, Ohio Valley Conference co-player of the year, averages 18.1 points a game and is making 46.3 percent of his threes, tops in the nation.


SALT LAKE CITY - Ian Clark spent the week before Selection Sunday telling his teammates to enjoy the experience.

The Belmont Bruins wound up being able to bask in it, waiting almost the entire television show to find out their fate.

"Gosh, I was just happy to see our name," Belmont coach Rick Byrd said. "We've never been in the first 30 minutes of the telecast."

For the third straight year, No. 11-seeded Belmont was guaranteed a berth after winning its conference tournament, but its name wasn't announced until the end of the broadcast.

"We've been in that last bracket," Clark said as his Bruins prepared to face the No. 6 Arizona Wildcats in Thursday's NCAA tournament game. "We've had to go through the whole show. It makes you kinda anxious."

"A lot of teams want to be here. We're not taking it for granted."

Filed under Nice Problems to Have: Waiting through a series of commercials to learn your NCAA tournament fate.

Clark, the nation's most accurate three-point shooter, knows the drill by now.

In four years, Belmont's senior guard has won 102 games, four league titles and three conference tournament titles, and has reached the NCAA tournament the past three years.

One could make a case he's the best player of the Bruins' NCAA era.

No one, since Belmont left NAIA in 1996, has scored more career points than Clark.

The 6-foot-3-inch Memphis native averages 18.1 points, 3.3 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 1.6 steals.

"I know it's hard to compare mid-major guys with upper-level guys," Byrd said, "but I thought he deserved some All-America consideration."

No one in the country makes three-pointers at a higher clip than his 46.3 percent.

Clark - who averages 3.1 three-pointers per game - is ranked fourth in the nation in effective field goal percentage, which gives added weight to threes.

"They have a 46 percent three-point shooter and a 90 percent free-throw shooter," UA forward Solomon Hill said of Clark, who actually makes 84 percent of his free throws. "I'm guessing he's a player that can get going anywhere he plays.

"Their team is a heavy three-point shooting team and you never want to let them weigh on that option and hope that they miss shots.

"Our job is to make our shots from their missed shots and close in hard on them.

"Don't let them get hot - and be more aggressive than them."

The Wildcats figure to mark Clark with sophomore guard Nick Johnson.

"It's going to be a big challenge for us, and I am ready to accept the challenge," Hill said. "Our team, especially Nick - and the defense that he's been playing lately - will be motivated to defend the three."

Last year, Belmont graduated three players who, at one point in their careers, had been named to the all-conference team.

"A bunch of our points ran out the door," Byrd said. "So he became more important."

Clark said he "tried to be more than a three-point shooter" during workouts this summer.

"All in all," he said. "I think it's being more focused, and being ready to get more shots."

He shared this season's Ohio Valley Conference Co-Player of the Year award with Murray State senior Isaiah Canaan.

Clark, who had 11 points in 40 minutes in the conference title game against Murray State on March 9, has scored in double figures 101 times in 132 career games.

"Ian has spent an awful lot of time working on his shooting and his game beside his three-point shot," Byrd said.

Clark was named his league's defensive player of the year for the second straight time - this season in the Ohio Valley, after last year in the Atlantic Sun.

He credited preparation - something he's spent the week doing to ready himself for the Wildcats.

"Just being more focused and being ready to play every game," Clark said. "No matter how performance is, coming and being mentally focused.

"If you do the right things, everything will take care of itself. Just knowing what your guy can do."

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