EDWARDSVILLE, Ill. - - Behind 29 points and seven rebounds from senior Amanze Egekeze (Lake in the Hills, Ill.), Belmont University men's basketball defeated SIU Edwardsville, 76-61, Thursday night.
While Winter Storm Hunter dropped temperatures some forty degrees around tip time, inside the Vadalabene Center, Belmont seemed unaffected.
Belmont led wire-to-wire, in command on both ends of the floor.
After a Jalen Henry basket, Belmont got two interior baskets from junior Mack Mercer (Plymouth, Ind.) and an Egekeze 3-pointer to stretch to a 17-6 advantage.
Six straight Brandon Jackson points trimmed the margin to four before a stabilizing steal and score from freshman Nick Hopkins (Fayetteville, Tenn.) sparked a big Bruin run.
As Belmont held SIU Edwardsville without a field goal for over six minutes, seven straight Egekeze points made the score 41-23 with 2:55 left in the first half.
But despite working for clean looks, the Bruins went dry to close the half.
Behind Jackson, SIU Edwardsville scored the final six points of the first half.
Belmont led 41-29 at halftime.
Belmont shot 50 percent (16-for-32) from the field in the opening 20 minutes - including 6-for-17 from 3-point distance. The Bruins handed out 11 assists and scored 20 points in the paint.
Egekeze led Belmont with 15 first half points.
Two Windler threes and a layin from senior Tyler Hadden (Cincinnati, Ohio) made the score 55-37 with 11:28 left.
SIU Edwardsville got as close as 10, but Egekeze would score 10 points over a five-minute span to secure the outcome.
All told, Belmont shot 47 percent (25-for-53) from the field - including 10-for-28 from 3-point distance. The Bruins outrebounded SIU Edwardsville, 34-29, and forced 15 Cougar turnovers.
Aside from Egekeze's 29, Windler added 17 points and eight rebounds, and McClain flirted with a triple-double before finishing with 10 points, a career-high 11 rebounds and six assists.
Daniel Kinchen led SIU Edwardsville (6-10, 2-3 OVC) with 14 points.
Belmont (12-6, 4-1 OVC) returns to game action Saturday, Jan. 13 at Eastern Illinois. Tip-off is set for 3:15 p.m. CT. 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.
NOTES: Belmont improves to 6-0 vs. SIU Edwardsville ... Mercer had nine points and five rebounds off the bench ... McClain tallied his first career double-double ... Belmont outscored SIU Edwardsville, 26-16, in points in the paint ... Hadden scored for the 11th time this season.