NASHVILLE, Tenn. - - Behind a career-high 24 points from junior Dylan Windler (Indianapolis, Ind.), Belmont University men's basketball defeated Tennessee Tech, 80-67, Thursday night.
Windler and senior Amanze Egekeze (Lake in the Hills, Ill.) combined to score Belmont's first 12 points as the Bruins raced out to a 12-3 lead 4:25 in.
Shaq Calhoun capped a 9-2 Tennessee Tech run as the Golden Eagles got within four midway through the first half.
After another Mercer basket, the visitors continued their late-half push, as a conventional 3-point play from Kajon Mack and a Mason Ramsey layin gave Tennessee Tech a brief 27-26 lead.
But Belmont closed the half on a 13-6 run. Senior Austin Luke (Rowlett, Texas) buried three consecutive wing 3-pointers, then found a leaping Windler for an acrobatic alley oop slam to end the half.
Belmont led 39-33 at halftime.
Belmont shot 53 percent (16-for-30) from the field in the opening 20 minutes - including 7-for-14 from 3-point distance. The Bruins committed only four first half turnovers, but Tennessee Tech held a 20-12 rebounding advantage.
Windler, Egekeze and Luke each had nine first half points.
The Bruins battled some uncharacteristically poor play to open the second half, as an Aleksa Jugovic jumper cut the margin to 41-40 with 16:46 left.
But stabilizing 3-pointers from Windler, McClain, and Egekeze pushed the Belmont lead back to seven.
Sophomore Michael Benkert (Greenwood, Ind.) then tacked on a driving baseline basket to make the score 54-45 with 11:51 remaining.
The Bruins staved off some misfortune midway through the half, with fortuitous bounces enabling the Golden Eagles to twice climb within four.
But timely baskets from Luke and Egekeze highlighted an 8-0 run to give Belmont a 64-52 lead with 7:18 left.
The Bruins worked Tennessee Tech into foul trouble, and made good use of the free throw line.
Sparked by strong team defense, Windler scored 12 points in the final 9:59 to help secure the victory.
All told, Belmont shot 57 percent (29-for-51) from the field - including 62 percent in the second half. Belmont outrebounded Tennessee Tech, 18-6, in the second 20 minutes.
Windler led four Bruins in double figures with 24 points. McClain had 17, Egekeze 14, and Luke added 11 points and nine assists.
Mack led Tennessee Tech (10-6, 2-1 OVC) with 16 points.
Belmont (11-5) returns to game action Saturday, Jan. 6 vs. Jacksonville State. Tip-off is set for 5 p.m. CT from the Curb Event Center. The game will be broadcast on OVC Digital Network. The live play-by-play of the Voice of the Bruins Kevin Ingram can be heard on the Bruin Sports Network. In-game updates will be available via Twitter @BelmontMBB.
NOTE: Belmont has won six consecutive games ... Belmont is 97-7 in its 104 games at the Curb Event Center and improves to 40-1 in OVC home games ... Windler equals his career-high, set earlier this season in victory over Vanderbilt (11/13/17) ... Egekeze has scored in double figures in 21 of his last 23 games ... Benkert scored four points in a season-high 18 minutes ... Luke has 27 assists over his last three games ... Mercer is averaging 8.3 points and 6.3 rebounds over his last four games ... Belmont outscored Tennessee Tech, 32-26, in points in the paint ... McClain added a career-high two blocked shots ... Seth Adelsperger added an offensive rebound, blocked shot and second chance scoring opportunity.