JACKSONVILLE, ALA. - - Belmont University men's basketball dropped a 78-67 decision at Jacksonville State Thursday night.
For the Bruins, it was a tough setback after winning 17 of their previous 19 games.
But seven quick points off the bench from Jamall Gregory ignited Jacksonville State, and his Gamecock teammates would soon follow.
A Marlon Hunter basket gave Jacksonville State a 27-19 lead midway through the first half, before Luke stabilized things for the Bruins.
A 3-pointer from senior Amanze Egekeze (Lake in the Hills, Ill.) got Belmont within two, 37-35, at halftime.
Belmont was 9-for-21 from 3-point distance in the opening 20 minutes.
Junior Kevin McClain (Jennings, Fla.) capped a 10-2 Belmont run that gave the Bruins a 47-44 lead with 12:55 left.
After Marlon Hunter pushed the Jacksonville State lead back out to five, Egekeze tied the score at 54 with 8:19 remaining.
But as has been the case in recent meetings, a series of mysterious Bruin rim outs coupled with Jacksonville State fortuitous and efficient offense told a tough tale.
Jason Burnell, Malcolm Drumwright and Hunter scored in succession to give Jacksonville State a 64-55 lead with 4:45 left.
Belmont closed within 69-65 on two Windler free throws, but a conventional 3-point play from Hunter and an end-of-shot-clock 3-pointer from Drumwright on subsequent Gamecock possessions all but secured the outcome.
Windler led three Bruins in double figures with 22 points and nine rebounds. Luke had 15 points, 10 assists and zero turnovers.
Hunter led Jacksonville State (19-11, 10-7 OVC) with 21 points.
Belmont (22-8, 14-3 OVC) returns to game action Saturday, Feb. 24 vs. Tennessee State. Tip-off is set for 5 p.m. CT from the Curb Event Center. The game will be broadcast on WUXP-TV MyTV30 and OVC Digital Network. In-game updates will be available via Twitter @BelmontMBB.
NOTE: Belmont can win its 10th regular season conference championship in the last 13 years - and No. 1 seed in the 2018 OVC Basketball Championship - Saturday with a victory vs. Tennessee State and an Austin Peay victory vs. Murray State.