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Bruins and Colonels battle for first place at McBrayer on Saturday

RICHMOND, Ky. – First place in the Ohio Valley Conference East Division will be on the line when Eastern Kentucky University’s men’s basketball team hosts Belmont University on Saturday at McBrayer Arena.

The Colonels (16-4, 6-1 OVC) sit alone in second place in the East Division, one game behind the Bruins (16-4, 7-0 OVC). Murray State leads the West Division with a 6-1 conference mark.

Tip-off is scheduled for 7 p.m. ET. The live radio broadcast of the game is available in the Richmond area on WCYO 100.7 FM, and can be heard worldwide on EKUSports.com. A FREE live video broadcast of the contest is available on OVCDigitalNetwork.com.

Eighth year EKU Head Coach Jeff Neubauer entered the season with the third most wins in program history. Now, with 134 victories on the Colonel bench, he needs only one more to move into a tie for second place.

Eastern shot a season-best 55.6 percent from the field (25-of-45) in a win over Tennessee State on Thursday. For the third time in as many games, senior Mike DiNunno scored a season-high 24 points. He also had 24 points at Belmont and at Jacksonville State. In seven OVC games this season, Corey Walden is 45-of-46 from the free throw line (97.8 percent). He is currently seventh in the nation in free throw shooting (91.7 percent).

EKU lost the turnover battle just once in its first 18 games, but now has committed more turnovers than its opponent in two straight games.

For the second time in nine days, Eastern Kentucky will face a Belmont squad that is undefeated in OVC play. In the first meeting, Eastern Kentucky overcame a 17-point first half deficit and led by four with six and a half minutes to go, but couldn’t hold off Belmont in an 83-76 road loss. The Bruins went up by 17 with 4:52 left in the first half. The Colonels whittled the deficit to nine at halftime. Eastern came out in the second half and used a 17-6 run to take the lead. DiNunno’s three-pointer and two free throws with 6:39 remaining had EKU in front by four, 69-65. However, Belmont rolled off 12 unanswered. Back-to-back three-pointers by DiNunno made it a two-point game, but that’s as close as the Colonels would get.

DiNunno scored a game-best 24 points. Timmy Knipp finished with a career-best 13. Ian Clark had 22 points for Belmont. Blake Jenkins added 21.

Belmont held a 38-19 rebounding advantage, but committed five more turnovers than Eastern. EKU made 48 percent of its shots while the Bruins connected on 52 percent.

After knocking off the Colonels, Belmont beat Tennessee State 78-66 and Morehead State 64-63.

Belmont leads the OVC in scoring (76.6 ppg), scoring margin (+13.7), field goal percentage (48.5 percent) and field goal percentage defense (39.4 percent).

Belmont’s starting five includes three seniors, a redshirt junior and a true junior. The team is led by Ian Clark. The 6-foot-3 senior guard averages 19 points, four rebounds and three assists per game while shooting 57 percent from the field and 50 percent from three-point range. Kerron Johnson, a 6-foot-3 senior guard, contributes 13 points and five assists per contest. Trevor Noack, a 6-foot-7 senior forward, averages 13 points and a team-best six rebounds per game.

With Belmont trailing 61-53 at Morehead and 4:18 left, Clark started the Bruin comeback push with a three-pointer. He then followed with a baseline lay-in to close Belmont within 61-58 with 2:52 left. After a Noack steal, J.J. Mann tied the game with a three-pointer with 2:02 remaining. MSU went back on top, 63-61, with 1:34 to go. On Belmont’s next possession, Clark drove and found Mann for a wing three-pointer with 1:13 left; Belmont’s first lead since 2-0.

The Eagles missed a driving lay-in with three seconds left. Clark led Belmont with 20 points. Mann added 11. BU shot 50 percent from the field but just 33 percent from behind the arc. The Bruins committed 18 turnovers and were out-rebounded by 15.

The Bruins lead the all-time series 2-1, but have not won a game in Richmond.

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