NASHVILLE, Tenn. - - Belmont University men's basketball dropped a 64-56 decision at Tennessee State Thursday night.
"I was proud of our team, and our effort tonight," Belmont head coach Rick Byrd said. "We did plenty of good things defensively, and executed well in the second half. Tennessee State simply made the plays in the final few minutes. (Delano) Spencer made a tough, fadeaway two right after we took the lead, and things just didn't go our way after that."
Senior Amanze Egekeze (Lake in the Hills, Ill.) got Belmont off to a quick 6-0 start, but the Bruins battled foul trouble throughout the night as Tennessee State built a 13-point first half lead.
After Belmont trimmed the margin to five, Tennessee State made a running 3-pointer before the first half buzzer to lead 32-24 at halftime.
Despite uncharacteristically cold shooting, Belmont rode strong defense and rebounding to get back into the game.
Tennessee State scored the final nine points of the game, a run started by a deep, contested baseline jumpshot from Delano Spencer.
The Tigers made seven free throws in the final 2:10, as Belmont simply could not find the range after a highly-efficient offensive second half.
All told, Belmont shot 45 percent (21-for-47) from the field - including 54 percent in the second half.
Egekeze led Belmont with 16 points. Luke had 10 assists.
Christian Mekowulu led Tennessee State (13-11, 8-5 OVC) with 18 points.
Belmont (19-7, 11-2 OVC) returns to game action Saturday, Feb. 10 at Tennessee Tech.