For awhile, it looked as if it was going to happen.
But heavily favored Belmont used a lengthy late first-half run to sway the contest in its favor and held on to win 72-57 on Wednesday afternoon at Mercer's University Center.
At least the eighth-seeded Owls (8-23) didn't allow the top-seeded Bruins (28-4) to push them around again, less than a week after losing by 47 to Belmont in the regular-season finale at the KSU Convocation Center.
Markeith Cummings led Kennesaw State with 20 points, after being held to eight five days ago. Spencer Dixon was also in double figures with 15 points, while LaDaris Green had 10 rebounds.
"I was really concerned with what happened Saturday and how we played," Kennesaw State coach Tony Ingle said. "My hat goes off to the players. They accepted the challenge. They showed that in the first half. In the second half, we didn't finish as strong as we wanted to, and I think that hurt us."
For the first 15 minutes of the game, the Owls played as if they had every intention of sending Belmont back to Nashville earlier than expected, just like they did last year when they upset the Bruins' cross-town rival, Lipscomb, in the first round.
Kennesaw State hit three of its first six 3-point attempts in the first 8 minutes, with Green's 3 at the 12:29 mark giving the Owls a five-point advantage. Kennesaw State took its biggest lead of the game at 23-16 when Anderson dunked the ball at the 7:18 mark.
"We put that loss behind us and wanted to come out and play," Cummings said. "We made a lot of silly turnovers and mistakes (Saturday). They played harder than us and we wanted to come out (Wednesday) and show them that we can play."
Belmont jumped into the driver's seat nearly 3 minutes later when it denied the Owls a field goal through the final 4-plus minutes of the first half. The Bruins also took advantage of Kennesaw State's shooting woes by scoring 15 points to build 35-28 halftime lead.
Kennesaw State's last field goal in the first half came on a floating jumper by Cummings with 4:44 left to play, which put the Owls in front 26-20. Then the Bruins started hitting 3-pointers and finishing missed shots.
Kennesaw State's only points during the final 4 minutes of the first half came on a pair of Cummings free throws.
Belmont went on to triple Kennesaw State in made 3s, going 12-of-26 from beyond the arc. The Owls were only 4-for-19.
Belmont came through with three clutch shots from long range during their late first-half spurt. Jordan Campbell nailed a 3 to cut the Owls' lead to 26-25 before 3-pointers by Ian Clark and Drew Hanlon gave the Bruins a 32-28 lead with 1:30 left in the half.
"I think we didn't execute offensively," Ingle said. "On the defensive end, we let them hit a couple of 3s. That kind of stuff we have to tighten up.
A Dixon layup during the first 2 minutes of the second half ended a 19-2 Belmont run, but the Owls failed to hit a 3-pointer in the second half.
But Kennesaw State still battled against the odds in the second half and went on to out-rebound Bruins 41-35 and hold them to a 36.8 percent (21-for-57) from the field.
Still, the Owls couldn't gain any ground.
Belmont opened a double-digit lead early by hitting three of four foul shots, and the Owls only got within single digits once the rest of the game.
Clark led Belmont with 14 points and six rebounds, with Mick Hedgepeth adding 12 points and seven rebounds.
The Bruins will match up Friday against the winner of today's first-round game between No. 4 seed Lipscomb and No. 5 Mercer.