First Half For the Ages

First Half For the Ages

RICHMOND, Ky. - - Behind 30 points and nine rebounds from senior Amanze Egekeze (Lake in the Hills, Ill.), Belmont University men's basketball defeated Eastern Kentucky, 98-63, Thursday night.

For a program known for offensive precision and 3-point shooting prowess, Belmont delivered one of the most impressive first halves in recent memory.

Egekeze and senior Austin Luke (Rowlett, Texas) combined on five consecutive 3-pointers in a four-minute span as the Bruins raced out to a 17-6 lead.

Junior Mack Mercer (Plymouth, Ind.) scored seven quick points and junior Kevin McClain (Jennings, Fla.) would add five assists before the second media timeout as the lead swelled to 24-11.

After two Zach Charles free throws trimmed the margin to 26-21, Belmont would hold the Colonels scoreless for the next six minutes.

Egekeze capped a 15-0 run to make the score 41-21 with 3:51 left in the half.

The Bruins went 20-for-28 from the field in the opening 20 minutes – including 10-for-15 from 3-point distance – while committing only one turnover in leading 55-29 at halftime.

Egekeze led Belmont with 17 first half points.

"In coaching you never really know game to game if your team is going to show up, but we certainly did tonight," Belmont head coach Rick Byrd said. "I've been extremely proud of our readiness this season, and while we shot well, I thought our defense and attention to detail led to quality shots."

Egekeze scored the first four points of the second half.

McClain and junior Dylan Windler (Indianapolis, Ind.) continued to attack the basket in the second half as Belmont maintained poise and focus.

All told, Belmont shot 62 percent (34-for-55) from the field - including 13-for-26 from 3-point distance. 

Egekeze led five Bruins in double figures with 30 points and nine rebounds. Windler had 16, while McClain and Hadden each added 12.

Luke recorded his fourth career double-double with 11 points and 10 assists.

Nick Mayo led Eastern Kentucky (8-16, 2-9 OVC) with 15 points.

Belmont has won 13 of its last 14 games.

Belmont (18-6, 10-1 OVC) returns to game action Saturday, Feb. 3 at Morehead State. Tip-off is set for 4 p.m. ET/3 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 10-5 vs. Eastern Kentucky ... Belmont closed the first half on a 29-8 run ... Belmont forced 17 Eastern Kentucky turnovers, which led to 28 Bruin points ... McClain added six rebounds, six assists and four steals ... Hadden registered double figures for the second time in his last three games.