RICHMOND, Ky. – Eastern Kentucky University’s men’s basketball team staged a furious rally, cutting a 22-point deficit to one, but couldn’t completely overcome a slow start in a 86-78 loss to visiting Belmont University on Thursday at McBrayer Arena.
The Bruins (19-9, 11-3 OVC) jumped out to a 23-4 lead after the Colonels (14-15, 5-9) made just 2-of-17 attempts from the field to start the game. Belmont took its largest lead of 22, 30-8, on a jumper by Evan Bradds with 7:32 left in the opening period.
The visitors were up by 21, 32-11, when EKU began to rally. A free throw and a lay-up from Ja’Mill Powell started a 17-5 run that allowed the Colonels to get back in the game. Jarelle Reischel hit a three-pointer and then took a charge on the defensive end. Nick Mayo capitalized on the turnover with a dunk that brought the large student audience to its feet.
An offensive rebound and put-back by JaVontae Hawkins cut the deficit to 10, 35-25. A jumper and free throw from Paul Jackson polished off the run and made it a nine-point game, 37-28, with just under two minutes to go before intermission.
The Colonels were down nine at the break, 42-33, after Isaac McGlone nailed a three-pointer from the right wing.
After making just 12 percent of its shots to start the game, EKU finished the first half by making 11-of-17 for 65 percent. Belmont shot 49 percent in the opening stanza.
Eastern Kentucky scored the first four points of the second half to get within five, 42-37. An 8-0 run later in the second half made it a one-point game. Reischel had two free throws and a lay-up off an offensive rebound to account for four of the eight. A transition lay-up from Hawkins with 13:31 left to play made it 52-51.
Nick Smith put an end to the EKU run with a three-pointer on the next Bruin possession, beginning a 9-2 run that the Colonels could not recover from. Bradds scored the final four points on a dunk and two free throws to stretch the margin to 61-53, with 10:21 remaining.
The game featured the two highest scoring offenses in the OVC. Belmont came into the game averaging 81.7 points per game while Eastern Kentucky was close behind at 80.8 per contest.
A trio of Colonels – Mayo, Reischel and Hawkins – scored 19 points each.
Bradshaw had a game-best 33 points to go along with nine rebounds and five assists. Bradds finished with 18 points and 11 rebounds.
Belmont shot 46 percent for the game. Eastern began the night first in the conference having made 49.7 percent of its shots this season, but shot just 39 percent against the Bruins. Belmont also had a 42-31 rebounding edge.