RICHMOND, Ky. – In a battle for first place in the Ohio Valley Conference East Division, the Eastern Kentucky University’s men’s basketball team fell to a hot-shooting Belmont University squad, 85-74, on Saturday at McBrayer Arena.
The Bruins (17-4, 8-0 OVC) shot 67 percent from the field and 73 percent from behind the three-point arc.
After shooting 70 percent in the first half and making 7-of-10 to start the second half, Belmont had a 15-point lead, 59-44, with 13:37 left in the game. The Bruins still led by 14 with less than 12 to go when the Colonels went on a 9-2 run to cut the deficit in half. A three-pointer by Marcus Lewis made it a 65-58 with just over nine minutes left to play.
Belmont edged back in front by 12, 75-63, on a lay-up by J.J. Mann before EKU made another run. The Colonels (16-5, 6-2 OVC) rolled off eight unanswered to close the gap to four. Corey Walden scored the first seven on a three-pointer, two free throws and a massive dunk. Mike DiNunno’s free throw made it 75-71 with 2:54 showing on the clock.
Kerron Johnson answered with a trey as the shot clock expired to put an end to the Eastern run and the Colonels’ comeback bid.
Belmont made 11-of-15 three-pointers. Ian Clark went 3-for-3 from deep and scored 21 points. Mann hit on 3-of-4 from behind the arc and finished with 18 points and six assists. Johnson connected on both of his attempts from long range and contributed 16 points.
Walden finished with a game-best 24 points. He went 6-for-10 from the field and 10-for-12 at the free throw line. DiNunno added 15 points and Lewis finished with 11.
The Colonels shot 50 percent from the field and 52 percent (11-for-21) from three-point range.
After a three-pointer by Brandon Baker put the visitors in front 14-8, Eastern went on an 11-2 run. DiNunno hit two three-pointers and Jeff Johnson had a trey during the spurt. However, the Bruins had an answer. Belmont scored 13 straight to turn a 19-16 deficit into a 29-19 lead. Mann had two of his team’s three three-pointers during the run.
Belmont led by as many as 13 twice before taking an 11-point lead, 42-31, into the locker room at half time.
The Bruins made 16-of-23 from the field (69.6 percent) in the opening half, including 7-of-8 from behind the arc.
The Colonels take to the road to face two West Division teams next week, beginning on Thursday at Tennessee-Martin. Tip-off is scheduled for 8 p.m.
Eastern Kentucky is ranked 18th in the latest CollegeInsider.com Mid-Major Top-25. Belmont is ranked fifth.
In the first meeting between these two teams, Belmont out-rebounded EKU by 19. On Saturday the Colonels held the advantage on the boards 23-19.
Belmont’s 67.4 percent shooting from the field and 73.3 percent shooting from three-point range are the highest by an Eastern Kentucky opponent this season.
Belmont now leads the all-time series 3-1.