EKU hands Belmont its first OVC loss, sets program record for OVC wins

Belmont had won 30-straight games against OVC teams, one away from tying the all-time conference record.

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RICHMOND, Ky. (EKU Athletics) – 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.

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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.

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Bryan Kennedy hails from the Bluegrass State. He was born and raised in Owensboro, KY where he graduated from Apollo High School in 2006. Bryan graduated from the University of Kentucky with a degree in Broadcast Journalism and a minor in Spanish in 2010. He also received his master's degree in Sports Media and Branding from Western Kentucky University. While at UK, Bryan was the general manager of the on-campus TV station. He also did sports reporting, anchoring, producing and even the weather for UK Student News Network. While working for UKSNN, he also had the pleasure of covering Coach John Calipari's first press conference when he was introduced as the new head coach of the Kentucky Wildcats; easily one of his favorite moments as a young sports reporter. Before coming to ABC 36, Bryan was a morning anchor and reporter at WXXV News 25, our sister station in Gulfport, MS. He anchored more than four hours of news every day, including morning shows on NBC and Fox. While down south, Bryan had the opportunity to cover the Sugar Bowl, New Orleans Saints and the New Orleans Pelicans. After spending a little more than two years at WXXV, Bryan is extremely excited to return home. In his spare time, Bryan enjoys playing sports, especially rugby. He also enjoys crossfitting and watching sports (obviously). He's extremely excited to cover Central Kentucky. Feel free to say hello and send story ideas toBKennedy@wtvq.com