CHARLESTON, Ill. - - Behind 14 points from sophomore Ben Sheppard (Atlanta, Ga.), Belmont University men's basketball defeated Eastern Illinois, 89-61, Thursday.
Belmont becomes the first program in America to win 19 or more games 16 consecutive seasons (Duke, Gonzaga, Kansas, Michigan State and San Diego State also have the opportunity to accomplish this season).
Belmont made eight 3-pointers in the opening 20 minutes - including three consecutive from sophomore Mitch Listau (Waunakee, Wis.) - to lead 38-23 at halftime.
A Sheppard transition layin highlighted a 12-4 Belmont run to open the second half which increased the margin to 23, 50-27, with 16:36 remaining.
Belmont had 39 bench points, as a conventional 3-point play from junior Nick Muszynski (Pickerington, Ohio) made the score 83-51 with 2:53 left.
Belmont handed out 26 assists on 35 made field goals and forced 16 Eastern Illinois turnovers.
Sheppard led five Bruins in double figures.
Listau scored a career-high 13 points. Junior Caleb Hollander (Nashville, Tenn.) had 12 points while Muszynski added 11 points, six rebounds and five assists.
Junior Luke Smith (Knoxville, Tenn.) had 11 points, four assists and three steals.
Marvin Johnson led Eastern Illinois (6-14, 3-10 OVC) with 15 points.
Belmont has won 31 of its last 32 games and 25 consecutive conference games.
Belmont has also won an NCAA-best 19 consecutive road/neutral games.
Belmont (19-1, 13-0 OVC) returns to game action Saturday at SIU Edwardsville.
Belmont University men's basketball has earned postseason invitations 14 of the last 15 seasons, including nine berths to the NCAA Tournament. The Bruins have won 19 conference championships since 2006 - third-most nationally over that span (Gonzaga, Kansas). Belmont is one of only six NCAA Division I programs outside the Power 5 to post Top 100 rankings 10 consecutive seasons (BYU, Gonzaga, Saint Mary's (CA), San Diego State, Wichita State). Belmont is one of only six NCAA Division I programs to win 19 or more games 15 consecutive seasons (Duke, Gonzaga, Kansas, Michigan State, San Diego State). Belmont University men's basketball boasts an NCAA-leading 17 CoSIDA Academic All-America selections since 2001 and is the only NCAA Division I program to make the NCAA Academic Progress Rate (APR) Honor Roll every year of existence