By: Emily Proud
Belmont cruised to a 97-64 victory over Eastern Illinois on Thursday to advance to the semifinals of the OVC conference tournament for the third straight year.
The Bruins never trailed in the game as they became the first team since 2010 to win an OVC conference tournament game by more than 30 points.
The 97 points and 16 threes from Belmont both set team records for a conference tournament game.
“We came out with a lot more purpose about us,” said Belmont coach Rick Byrd. “Any team is better when they play like that.”
The Bruins began the game with a 15-0 run that spanned the first four minutes of the game. The run included three 3-pointers and points from all five starters.
“I think we just wanted to come out and stick it to them from the beginning. You get up 15-0 and you just kind of take their heart,” said junior guard Craig Bradshaw. “We have experienced it before and we don’t want to be on the other side of it.”
Bradshaw led all scorers with 23 points and was one of five Belmont players who scored double figures.
The Bruins were able to spread the court throughout and scored 38 points in the paint to go along with 48 points from beyond the arc.
“Whenever you hit your first couple threes, the paint just seems like it is wide open,” said sophomore forward Evan Bradds. “Craig, Taylor, and Reese do a great job of finding me down there so a lot of credit goes to them.”
Bradds went 7-for-10 from the field to finish with 14 points.
With the win, Belmont advances to face Eastern Kentucky in the semifinals for a rematch of the 2014 OVC championship. The teams split their two-game series during the regular season.
“They’re good, they’re well-coached, they’re hard to play against, but we’re glad we’re in the game,” said Byrd.
Belmont will play the Eastern Kentucky Colonels on Friday at the Municipal Auditorium with tip-off scheduled for 8:30 p.m.
By: Sam Cowan
Photos: Andrew Hunt