EKU HANDS BELMONT FIRST OVC LOSS, SETS NEW PROGRAM RECORD FOR OVC WINS

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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.

— www.EKUSports.com —