Eastern fell to Belmont University for the second time this month after hosting the Bruins at Paul S. McBrayer Arena last Wednesday, Feb. 24.
A strong Bruins team (21-8, 13-3 OVC), ranked second in the Ohio Valley Conference (OVC), started the game off by leading EKU (16-11, 10-6 OVC) 17-7, and maintained its lead over the Colonels for the duration. EKU’s 51 points were the lowest scored all season.
At its last home game of the regular season, the Colonels finished 9-4 at McBrayer Arena. It was an improvement over its ’14-’15 season, where EKU finished 3-8 at home.
During the game, the Colonels shot 25 percent from the field, while only scoring two 3-point field goals out of 24 attempts. Despite committing less turnovers, and going 13-14 from the free-throw line, EKU couldn’t close the gap and surpass Belmont.
Junior forward Jalen O’Bannon was the star for the Colonels, leading the team in free throws (9-10) and total points (23). On the defensive end, O’Bannon blocked three shots and collected eight rebounds, also grabbing six offensive boards.
Senior Miranda Maples scored seven points and pulled down nine rebounds. Senior Shameekia Murray and junior Mariah Massengill each scored six points and combined for ten rebounds. Michaela Hunter dished out four assists to her fellow Colonels.
Tennessee Tech 67
Three days later in Cookeville, Tenn., Eastern played its final regular season game, winning in overtime against Tennessee Tech (10-19, 6-10 OVC). With five Colonels in double figures, EKU was able to win the contest, firmly placing Eastern as the fourth ranked team in the OVC.
The onslaught was led by Hunter and O’Bannon, who scored 17 and 13 points respectively. Murray, Maples and freshman Abby Wright each scored doube figures for EKU.
The Colonels out-rebounded the Golden Eagles on offense 14 to 10, but tied for defensive boards at 33. Hunter and O’Bannon extended Eastern’s offensive chances, with Hunter grabbing five offensive rebounds and O’Bannon grabbing three.
Defensively, O’Bannon pulled down eight boards and the bench picked up another seven. Hunter stole the ball three times, while O’Bannon and Massengill each had two steals.
Maples scored six points during the overtime period, while Hunter accounted for four points. Combined, the Colonels were able to pull ahead and hold Tennessee Tech for the remaining 30 seconds of the contest.
The Colonels will enter the Ohio Valley Conference tournament in Nashville, Tenn. and face Austin Peay (10-19, 8-8 OVC), Thursday, March 3. Tip-off is at 1 p.m., and if Eastern advances, the semifinals are the following day. The championship game is on March 5.