The Eastern Kentucky University men’s basketball team fell in the Ohio Valley Conference semifinals to No. 1 seed Belmont, 60-50 and came up short in their run for the championship.
From the start, EKU came out ready to complete the upset, but could not find a rhythm on offense or from the free throw line.
EKU went 41.7 percent from the free throw line (5 for 12) and 29.9 percent (20 for 67) from the field against the Bruins.
“I’d never dream in a million years that Michael Moreno would go 0 for 4 and as a team we would go 5 for 12. It was just one of those games,” Hamilton said.
Russhard Cruickshank turned on the jets in the second half scoring nine of his 15 points.
“I was motivated by my teammates and wanted to keep the run alive and I just wanted to keep winning,” he said.
Hamilton said Cruickshank is one of the toughest players he has ever been around.
“The guy never stops talking. I think he even talks in his sleep. I’m so proud of him,” Hamilton said about Cruickshank.
EKU held the Bruins to 34 percent shooting from the field for the game, including just 7 for 30 (23 percent) from behind the arc.
This was the second lowest field goal percentage Belmont has been held to this season. The lowest was against Saint Louis.
The Colonels finish the season with a 12-6 conference record.
“For us to win 12 games in this league and just the fourth time in the history of our school we’ve been able to do that,” Hamilton said.
The Colonels finish the season with a 16-17 overall record.
“In December there were so many people that counted these guys out,” Hamilton said. “It shows the character and toughness that these guys have. They came together and had a magical run in OVC play.”
This was the final game for EKU’s three seniors, Lachlan Anderson, Ty Taylor and Mason Cooper.
Hamilton spoke about Anderson’s impact on the team and the difference maker he was this season for the Colonels.
“He’s one of my heroes in life,” Hamilton said about Anderson. “What he did to inspire this team, our university, our fanbase; I think back at some of the games like SIUE, the tip dunk he has, Eastern Illinois, the and-one offensive rebound he came up with. We don’t get those plays, we don't win those games.”
Anderson finished with five points and nine rebounds against the Bruins.
Anderson said it was a rollercoaster of emotions for him as he reflects on his final game wearing an EKU jersey.
“Just this week alone has been amazing and something that after my first two years I didn't think I was going to be able to achieve,” Anderson said. “Being here in Evansville with this team was amazing.”
Anderson said he had his family from Australia visit to support him.
Hamilton and his team thanked the fans for all of their support this season and especially for making the trip to Evansville for the tournament.
“I’m so thankful for our fans,” Hamilton said.
After a strong showing in the OVC tournament, the Colonels will look to build on this success next season.
“We’re excited about the young players we got in our program, we’re excited about our recruiting class. We’re going to be back next year with our young guys and now they got experience playing in this game,” said Hamilton. “I’m really excited about the direction of our program.”
“I’m proud to be the coach at Eastern Kentucky,” Hamilton said.