MARTIN, Tenn. - - Behind a game-high 19 points from senior Austin Luke (Rowlett, Texas), Belmont University men's basketball defeated UT Martin, 65-58, Saturday night.
Luke delivered one of his finest games in a Bruin uniform, adding 10 assists and three steals on zero turnovers in 38 minutes of action.
The Bruins got off to a positive start, as a thunderous baseline slam from junior Dylan Windler (Indianapolis, Ind.) and a layin from senior Amanze Egekeze (Lake in the Hills, Ill.) forced a UT Martin timeout less than a minute into the game.
But after making 58 3-point field goals in their previous four games, the Bruins mysteriously rimmed out 12 of their first 13 shots from behind the arc.
Luke and Windler would combine on 16 of Belmont's final 17 points of the half, as a running Luke bank shot gave the Bruins a 34-29 halftime lead.
Belmont shot 41 percent (12-for-29) from the field in the opening 20 minutes - including 6-for-23 from 3-point distance.
It was truly a strange first half, as the teams combined on just four turnovers and 10 fouls; Luke scored 13 first half points after not attempting a shot in Thursday night's victory at Southeast Missouri.
A transition basket from Egekeze opened second half scoring, and Belmont pushed the lead to 10, 44-34, with 16:20 left on a Luke 3-pointer.
Senior Tyler Hadden (Cincinnati, Ohio) would provide valuable bench contributions, as two straight baskets preserved a 51-41 edge with 11:39 remaining.
But just as the Bruins appeared poised to string defensive stops and scores together, Belmont endured a dry spell.
A Matthew Butler layin capped a 10-0 UT Martin run and tied the score at 51 with 7:08 remaining.
Egekeze followed with a timely 3-pointer at the 5:45 mark, as the Bruins held the Skyhawks to one field goal the final seven minutes.
Luke then buried a baseline 3-pointer before setting up Mercer inside as the Bruins seized a 59-52 lead with 3:11 to go.
Then after two Darius Thompson free throws, Mercer found a cutting Kevin McClain (Jennings, Fla.) for an acrobatic finish in traffic.
A baseline dunk and two free throws from Windler in the final 1:06 enabled Belmont to secure the game.
All told, Belmont shot 43 percent (24-for-56) from the field - including 10-for-34 from 3-point distance.
Aside from Luke's 19, Egekeze added 14 and Windler 13.
Jailen Gill led UT Martin (6-9, 1-1 OVC) with 15 points.
Belmont (10-5, 2-0 OVC) returns to game action Thursday, Jan. 4 vs. Tennessee Tech. Tip-off is set for 7 p.m. CT from the Curb Event Center. The game will be broadcast on OVC Digital Network. The live play-by-play of the Voice of the Bruins Kevin Ingram can be heard on the Bruin Sports Network. In-game updates will be available via Twitter @BelmontMBB.
NOTES: Belmont has won six consecutive games vs. UT Martin ... Luke tallied his third career double-double, and first since going for 11 points and 10 assists vs. Morehead State (2/18/17) ... For the second consecutive game, Windler came one rebound shy of his 10th double-double this season ... Windler also held UT Martin leading scorer Matthew Butler to two field goals while he was defending him ... Egekeze recorded his 51st career double figure scoring game ... Mercer had three assists and two blocked shots ... Hadden scored 10 points off the bench this week.