NASHVILLE – SIUE men's basketball dropped a 92-69 decision to Ohio Valley Conference-leading Belmont Monday night at Curb Event Center.
The Cougars dropped their 10th consecutive game and fell to 5-19 overall and 0-10 in OVC play. The Bruins have won 12 consecutive games and improved to 10-0 in OVC play and 16-4 overall.
"You wouldn't think in a 23-point loss that you took steps forward, but I thought we took steps forward tonight," SIUE Head Coach Jon Harris said. "I thought the energy and the effort that our guys played with was great. I commend our guys for that."
Belmont shot 61.5 percent (32-52) from the field and connected on seven three-pointers.
"There is a reason Belmont is undefeated," Harris said. "That is a tremendous basketball team. When you break down they burn you."
Reigning OVC Player of the Year Evan Bradds led all scorers with 24 points. He was 10-14 from the field. Nick Smith added 22 points for Belmont. He was 8-12 overall and 4-8 from three-point range. Taylor Barnette (19), Amanze Egekeze (12) and Kevin McClain (10) all scored in double figures for the Bruins.
Three SIUE players scored in double figures, led by Burak Eslik's 18 points. He was 4-12 from the field, including 2-4 from beyond the arc, and 8-8 at the free throw line. Christian Ellis tied his career high in scoring with 16 points. He added four assists, three steals and no turnovers. Jalen Henry scored 16 points and added seven rebounds.
"Burak was aggressive," Harris said. "He shot the ball. That was good to see. Christian came out of his shell a little bit and had a really good game. I was glad to see those guys step forward because they've not been playing great basketball. That was encouraging."
SIUE scored 28 points in the paint and forced 17 Belmont turnovers, turning them into 15 points.
"I thought we competed from start to finish and we've not done that a lot this year," Harris said. "For me, that's progress."
SIUE is off until Saturday when Jacksonville State visits Vadalabene Center for a 4 p.m. game.
"We have to find a way to bottle up this effort we had tonight," Harris added. "If we can compete at that level, we'll get some wins before the season is over with. I don't have a doubt in my mind."