The Belmont Bruins exacted revenge in yet another nailbiter against a frustrated Eastern Kentucky, who was picked to finish first in the OVC Eastern division.
“It was about as bad as I wanted to win one all year for the implications it had,” senior JJ Mann said.
In the 84-81 victory, Mann notched a career-high 34 points. Craig Bradshaw and Reece Chamberlain also finished in double figures.
“Well with the fact we got the win, it’s not as important. I had to score a little extra and knocked some shots other guys made open for me so I give the credit to them,” Mann said.
Glenn Cosey dominated the first minute of the contest , but was quickly silenced by a Belmont team effort inside the paint to give the Bruins a 10-7 lead with 15:33 to go.
The three-point game came alive within the next few minutes on a 10-point Bruin run, highlighted by a Reece Chamberlain trey from downtown completed despite a charge from EKU’s Orlando Williams.
“We had to create opportunities to drive it or kick it to shooters or dump it to the post players inside and we were able to do much better defensively than we did at their place,” said coach Rick Byrd.
Both Belmont’s composure and consistency allowed it to surge to a 50-30 lead by the half, while EKU committed 12 fouls including a technical on Marcus Lewis, the Bruins only committed nine.
Led by Mann who went to the locker room with 23 points on the half, the Bruins shot an impressive 57 percent from the field.
“We learned from our mistakes, took care of the ball and started making shots and it really made the difference getting that early lead,” Mann said.
EKU began the second half on a 9-2 run, cutting Belmont’s lead 52-39 until a Mann three from the far corner gave a slow spark to the Bruin offense.
As was in the first half, EKU failed to keep any momentum gained as Belmont surged back to a 64-43 lead with just under 10 minutes to go in the contest.
The Colonels would come within as close as three points, but the lead the Bruins had built throughout the game’s entirety would send Belmont on its way to its seventh OVC victory as a signature Bradshaw dunk with under 30 seconds left sealed the deal.
Belmont will travel to Morehead State on Wednesday to try to sweep this year’s series against the Eagles.