RICHMOND, Ky. – Eastern Kentucky University’s men’s basketball team handed Belmont University its first conference loss of the season and set a new program record with its 14th Ohio Valley Conference victory, beating the Bruins 81-67 on Thursday at McBrayer Arena.
This year’s EKU team, now 20-6 overall and 14-5 in OVC play, was tied with the 2006-07 squad (13-7) and 1964-65 team (13-1) for the program record for conference wins. Belmont came into the game having won 21 straight games, including all 18 of its league match-ups. The Bruins had won 30 straight games against OVC teams, one away from tying the all-time conference record.
The Colonels methodically built a 20-point lead in the first half and then never let Belmont (24-2, 18-1 OVC) make an extended run in the second half.
Trailing 15-10, EKU strung together a 23-4 run. A three-pointer by Curt Lewis tied the game at 15-15. A steal and lay-up by the redshirt freshman gave Eastern the lead. Lewis scored seven straight early in the run and accounted for 11 of the 23 points. A steal and lay-up by Devontae Blanton pushed the margin to double figures. A three-pointer from the left wing by Cooper Robb, and a lay-up from Blanton finished off the run and gave the home squad a 33-19 lead with 8:28 remaining in the first half.
Lay-ups from Lewis and Wendell Green Jr. pushed EKU out in front by 18, 44-26, with 4:11 to go. Green’s lay-up with 1:46 showing on the clock gave the Colonels a 20-point lead, 50-30. Eastern led 50-32 at halftime.
Eastern Kentucky made 22-of-35 attempts from the field in the first half for 63 percent.
Both teams started the second half cold, going a combined 0-for-11 from the field to start. Belmont was the first to score in the second when Tate Pierson made a three-pointer with 16:29 showing on the clock. Eastern’s first basket didn’t come until the 15:02 mark, but the Bruins had only scored three points at that point.
Ben Sheppard’s three-pointer made it an 8-2 Belmont run to start the second half and cut the deficit to 12, 52-40. When Russhard Cruickshank connected on a three-pointer from the top of the key with 12:49 remaining in the game, Eastern was just 2-of-14 from the field in the second half but still led by 15, 55-40.
The Bruins got within 12 again before EKU pushed back in front by 19, 69-50, on a lay-up by Michael Moreno, and again on a spinning lay-up from Green with 5:13 to go to make it 73-54.
Belmont closed back to 12 three more times, but never got any closer.
Green led all players with 22 points, to go along with four rebounds, three assists and a steal. Lewis added 15 points. Tre King had 14 points, nine rebounds and three blocks.
Sheppard finished with a team-best 14 points and eight boards for Belmont.
The Colonels shot 51 percent for the game while holding the Bruins to 37 percent shooting, including 6-of-23 from long range (26 percent).
EKU’s final regular season game is slated for Saturday against Tennessee State. Senior day ceremonies will be held before the game. Tip-off at McBrayer Arena is scheduled for 7 p.m.