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The Eastern Kentucky University men’s basketball team cut a 20-point first-half deficit to two in the second half, but couldn’t complete the comeback in a 66-61 loss to Bellarmine University on Saturday at Freedom Hall in Louisville.

After a scoring drought by the Colonels that lasted 5:14 allowed the Knights to turn a three-point lead into a 13-point advantage with 6:57 left in the game, EKU turned the tables. Eastern Kentucky held Belarmine scoreless for the next 6:44 and scored 11 straight. Russhard Cruickshank got the late run started with a 15-foot jumper and then hit a 3-pointer. Devontae Blanton’s free throw capped it and got the visitors within two, 63-61, with 2:22 left to play. 

CJ Fleming’s 14-foot jumper and free throw with 12.9 seconds left in the game secured the win for the Knights.

Two first half scoring droughts doomed the Colonels. After scoring the first basket of the game, EKU went 4:43 without scoring as the Knights ran off 12 straight. The Colonels were within four, 12-8, after a 3-pointer from the right wing by Curt Lewis with 14:18 to go in the first half, but another drought that lasted 5:40 allowed Bellarmine to build a 19-point lead, 27-8. 

After falling behind by 20, 37-17, Eastern Kentucky closed the half on a 12-4 run. A long 2-pointer from Jannson Williams made it a 10-point game, 39-29. The Knights scored the final bucket of the half to take a 41-29 lead into the locker room at the break.

Bellarmine shot 56 percent in the first half.

EKU came out and scored the first seven points of the second half. Cruickshank opened the second half with a three-pointer from the left corner and Michael Wardy followed with two dunks. His second, an alley-oop from Cooper Robb, made it a 5-point game, 41-36.

Bellarmine stretched its lead back to 12, 53-41, before a 9-0 Colonel run made up of 3-pointers from Williams, Braxton Beverly and Lewis cut the deficit to three, 53-50. However, CJ Fleming hit a pair of 3-pointers to begin a 10-0 run for the Knight as Eastern Kentucky went 5:14 without scoring.

Williams finished with 15 points to lead EKU (8-8, 0-2 ASUN). Lewis scored 12 points and Cruickshank contributed 11. 

Alec Pfriem led Bellarmine with 23 points and Fleming added 22. The Knights shot 50 percent for the game while holding Eastern Kentucky to 39 percent shooting. 

The Colonels continue a two-game ASUN road stretch at North Alabama on Tuesday. The game is scheduled to begin at 7 p.m.

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