Eastern returned to action last Thursday night to host conference leader Belmont.
The gym was packed as ESPN filmed the game and senior night honors. EKU had upset the Bruins (20-9, 12-3 OVC) the last time the two teams had played, giving Belmont its first home conference loss since joining the OVC.
Belmont scored the first eight points of the game before the Colonels (14-15, 5-9 OVC) got its first bucket from freshman forward Nick Mayo, halting the run at the first timeout.
The Bruins continued to score and pushed its lead to 12-2 before Mayo ignited the crowd with an and-one.
However, the game continued to get out of hand as Belmont built a 20-4 lead halfway through the first half.
The Colonels finally found some rhythm on offense after the score ballooned to 32-12, scoring on three straight possessions.
The Colonels went on a big run after the four minute timeout, going on a 19 to 8 run that cut EKU’s deficit to just nine points at halftime. The Colonels started moving the ball and getting to the foul line. EKU turned Belmont over seven times, and of the nine Colonels who played, seven scored for EKU.
The Colonels came out of the break continuing to play tough and cut Belmont’s lead to five. The Bruins responded with a couple of stops and pushed its lead back to nine before the first media timeout of the second half.
The Colonels came back with a run of its own to cut Belmont’s lead to one point at 52-51, forcing the Bruins to call a timeout with 13 minutes left in the game.
Belmont eventually pushed its lead back out to about eight points and the Colonels were never able to fight back, losing 86-78.
EKU was beaten on the boards, losing the rebound margin 40 to 31 to the Bruins.
Senior Jarelle Reischel, junior Javontae Hawkins and Mayo each scored 19 points for the Colonels. Mayo and Hawkins each pulled down seven rebounds, while Reischel grabbed six boards of his own.
Eastern Head Coach Dan McHale spoke about falling behind by 20 points early in the game.
“Senior Night jitters,” McHale said. “We got their A-game and I knew we would after what we did to them at their place. We just had to calm down and get back in the game, and I was proud because that’s what they did.”
With only two games left, the Colonels will travel to Jacksonville, Ala., on Thursday, Feb. 25, to take on Jacksonville St. The game is scheduled to tip at 8 p.m.