NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Eastern Kentucky University’s men’s basketball team defeated top-seeded Belmont University, 79-73, to capture the Ohio Valley Conference Championship Saturday at Municipal Auditorium.
The Colonels (24-9) won their seventh game in a row en route to a return trip to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2007.
EKU used a hot-shooting first-half and veteran play of its guards down the stretch to win its 24th game of the season, the second-most in school history. The Colonels snapped Belmont’s seven-game winning streak as they served the Bruins their first loss since Feb. 13.
Glenn Cosey, Tarius Johnson and Cory Walden were named to the OVC Tournament team, with Walden snagging Most Valuable Player honors. Walden also posted a career-high 29 points.
Cosey came up huge with a three-pointer at the top of the key to break a 54-54 tie with 4:52 left. The gutsy long-range bomb keyed an 8-0 run that gave EKU space at 62-54 with 3:40 to go. The scoring spree proved to be the difference as Belmont could not recover.
Belmont (24-10) got to within 65-61 with 1:30 to go, but the league’s leading three-point shooter Cosey would respond with a long-range bomb that bolstered the lead to 68-61 with 1:30 to go.
The Colonels opened the second half with five-straight points, but Belmont countered with an 8-2 run to get to within 43-36 at the 15:45 mark. Walden provided the silencer with a traditional three-point play to extend the lead back to double-digits at 46-36 with 15:22 left.
Belmont responded over the next six minutes, engineering a 15-6 run to get to within 47-43, at 11:18 mark. From there, the Bruins would chip away at the lead until eventually tying the game at 52-all at the 6:11 mark.
EKU started the game on fire, connecting on four long-range shots to take a 12-0 lead before the first media timeout. The Colonels hit their first five three-pointers, boosting the lead to 17-4 at the 13:22 mark. During this stretch, EKU shot a scorching 75 percent, off 6-of-8 shooting from the field while Belmont committed five turnovers only hitting 2-of-7 from the field.
OVC Player of the Year J.J. Mann was the bright spot for Belmont, scoring 12 of Belmont’s 28 first-half points. Belmont finished the first stanza with a 14-8 run to close the gap at 36-28. Mann ended his night with a team-high 18 points.
Following Walden in the scoring column was Cosey with 23 points and Johnson with 15 points. Eastern Kentucky shot 23-of-45 (47.8 percent) from the field and 11-of-22 (50 percent) from behind the arc. EKU had 17 assists to go along with eight steals.
The Colonels will await word on their NCAA Tournament destination until next Sunday.