Corey Walden scored 29 points as the Colonels upended the top-seeded Bruins to win the Ohio Valley Conference championship and reach the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2007. Walden shot 8-of-13 from the field while adding seven assists and two steals for Eastern Kentucky (24-9), which squeaked by No. 2 seed Murray State 86-83 to advance to the final. Glenn Cosey knocked down five 3-pointers as part of a 23-point performance while Tarius Johnson added 15 points. J.J. Mann's 18 points paced Belmont (24-9), which fell short in its quest to reach the NCAA Tournament for the fourth straight year. Evan Bradds collected 14 points and 10 rebounds in a reserve role while Drew Windler had 14 points and Reece Chamberlain added 13. Eastern Kentucky roared to a 12-0 start on the strength of four 3-pointers and stretched the advantage to 17-2 on Marcus Lewis' 3-pointer off a Johnson steal. Belmont trimmed the deficit to single digits but Johnson made a layup, Cosey added a pair of 3-pointers and hit a third with 13 seconds left in the first half to send the Colonels into the break with a 36-28 advantage. The Bruins rallied to start the second half, putting together an 8-2 run fueled by Blake Jenkins' dunk and making it a four-point game on Bradds' layup with 11:31 remaining. Belmont drew even on a pair of Chamberlain free throws five minutes later, but Cosey and Walden hit 3-pointers just under a minute apart to make it an eight-point game and the Bruins didn't threaten again. GAME NOTEBOOK: Belmont had won its last six appearances in a conference final - five in the Atlantic Sun Conference and last year in its inaugural season in the OVC. ... The Colonels shot 11-for-22 from beyond the arc and 51.1 percent from the field overall. ... Chamberlain shot just 2-for-10 in the final two games of the conference tournament, but went 18-for-20 from the free-throw line.
Eastern Kentucky 79, Belmont 73
ProSportsDaily | Mar 9