OVC MEN'S HOOPS: First-place Belmont blasts EKU

The Colonels had a chance to test themselves against the top team in the Ohio Valley Conference on Thursday in front of a national television audience.

They didn't rise to the occasion.

Not even close.

"Belmont is a great team," EKU coach A.W. Hamilton said in a postgame radio interview. "They are the best team in our league right now. They beat us like they were the best team in our league."

EKU's starters spent most of the second half on the bench as Belmont rolled to a history-making 92-74 victory in Nashville.

The Bruins (21-1, 15-0 OVC) built a 20-point lead early by hitting eight of their first 11 three-pointers, shot 53 percent from the field and out-rebounded the Colonels (15-5, 9-4 OVC), 42-31.

It was Belmont's 25th-straight OVC regular-season win, tying the league record.

It was also the 11th-consecutive win for the Bruins over the Colonels.

"I was disappointed with how we came out and played," Hamilton said. "Their effort in the first half, just wasn't good enough."

By halftime, the outcome had seemingly already been decided.

Belmont had a 50-32 advantage at the break after shooting 58 percent from the field.

EKU's starters - Tre King, Curt Lewis, Cooper Robb, Wendell Green Jr., and Michael Moreno - struggled, individually and as a unit. That group scored just 25 points on 10-of-31 shooting and had 10 turnovers.

King fouled out for the seventh time this season (20th of his career) with more than 10 minutes left in the second half. The junior had eight points and four turnovers in 15 minutes of action.

Green Jr., had scored 17 or more points in the five-straight games and had the most assists of any freshman in the country coming into the game. The point guard was 1-of-10 from the field and finished with two points and one assist.

Robb finished with seven points and five assists, Lewis had four points and Moreno had three points and four rebounds.

The Colonels never led on Thursday, but got within four points (23-19) before a 16-0 run, highlighted by four three-pointers, helped Belmont take control.

EKU's bench provided a spark in the second half.

Cheikh Faye had a team-best 12 points (4-of-10 fro three-point range) and Russhard Cruickshank had 11 points (three three-pointers).

JacQuess Hobbs had eight points and four assists, Tariq Balogun had eight points and eight rebounds and Davontae Blanton had seven points and six rebounds.

The Colonels got 49 points off the bench and the non-starters combined to shoot 19-of-38 with 24 rebounds and only six turnovers.

"We had five or six guys who played hard, competed and never gave up," Hamilton said.

Despite that effort off the bench, the Colonels were never able to get back within single-digits in the second half.

Ben Sheppard had a career-high 25 points and 10 rebounds for Belmont. Three other Bruins reached double-figures in scoring as they had 22 assists on 32 field goals.

EKU shot 42 percent from the field, including 11-of-26 from three-point range.

The Colonels have lost three of their past four games, but are set to take on last-place Tennessee State (3-15, 2-13 OVC) on Saturday in Nashville.

"The good news is, we get to play (Belmont again)," Hamilton said.

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