LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – With some teams, the scouting report tells you to check rebound numbers. There’s a good chance the three-point shot will also count.
With the Bellarmine University men’s basketball team, I recommend checking the odometer. By my reckoning, Coach Scott Davenport’s plucky team has covered about 16,180 miles and played in a dozen states this season.
The Knights know so much about Top 25 teams that they should have a vote in the Associated Press weekly poll.
Know this about Bellarmine: The odometer will continue to run an additional 470 miles to Lynchburg, Va., on Friday.
All of those games against Purdue, Gonzaga, Saint Mary’s, UCLA and Murray State translated into the confidence and persistence the Knights needed to send Florida Gulf Coast, 81-68, Thursday night to the quarterfinals of the ASUN Tournament in Freedom Hall.
Their reward will be a semi-final game against ASUN regular season champions Liberty on Saturday at 6 p.m.
The Knights have won 18 of 31 games this season and at least six of the losses have come against teams that will compete in the NCAA Tournament.
“When young people believe in themselves, when young people come together and they all want the same thing and are willing to do whatever it takes to get it, that’s powerful,” said said Bellarmine coach Scott Davenport.
The bus to Virginia leaves Friday morning – after a quick 10 a.m. practice and Knights student managers return from the Smoothie King to Bardstown Road with the $5 smoothies Davenport players savor like $75 rib eye .
Give the Knights another standing ovation like the one they received from the crowd of 1,593 after opening a game tied at 64 with about 9 minutes left while scoring 14 straight points.
When you’ve already played against Jaden Ivey, Zach Edey, Drew Timme, Chet Holmgren and Johnny Juzang, you’re not going to flinch against a bigger, stronger and faster team that had won eight of its last nine games as FGCU.
Was this when the benefits of Bellarmine’s ambitious schedule kicked in?
“Absolutely,” said Bellarmine senior Ethan Claycomb. “It’s a learning experience. These games are tough for us, but that puts us in the right place.
Ask the coach. The FGCU coach. Davenport already knew his guys wouldn’t back down.
“I just think in the second half they were tougher than us and they played harder than us,” Florida Gulf Coast coach Michael Fly said. “That’s what got us.”
Yes, he did.
Let’s be honest here: it was a big deal. It was Bellarmine’s first home postseason game as a Division I program.
“This journey since our transfer to Division 1 is another first,” Bellarmine senior Dylan Penn said. “It’s a blessing and I feel honoured.”
Ten years ago, Florida’s Gulf Coast was the talk of the NCAA Tournament. The Eagles blew up Georgetown and San Diego State to crush the Sweet Sixteen in 2013. FGCU made the tournament twice more over the next four seasons, winning a playoff against Fairleigh-Dickinson in 2016.
That NCAA pedigree and sunshine from Fort Myers, Fla. has allowed Fly to stock his roster with seven Division 1 transfers, including guys who have played at TCU, Ole Miss, Tulsa, Duquesne, Richmond, Western Carolina and McNeese State.
Bellarmine won’t be able to create that kind of magic this season because the Knights still have two years left on their transition window before they’re eligible for the 68 field.
But Bellarmine isn’t expected to succeed as consistently in his new league, just as Ken Pomeroy’s computer power formula favored Liberty to defeat the Knights, 73-65, Saturday at 6 p.m. Liberty won the first meeting between the teams, 66-53. , at Freedom Hall a month earlier.
Against FGCU, Bellarmine did what Bellarmine does. Share the ball. Move the ball. Value the ball. Minimize good shots. Maximize great photos. Davenport has tightened the game rotation to basically six guys. Bellarmine defended directly. No gadgets allowed.
The Knights survived the rebound 37-21 because they forced 14 turnovers and committed just six, three in each half.
And something else happened: Bellarmine made 14 of 31 shots from range. Four of Davenport’s starters made three-pointers, including freshman forward Curt Hopf, who made three of six.
“If you had told me before the game that they were going to make 14 of 31 three-pointers, I would have made you laugh in the gym,” Fly said.
“Sometimes it’s as simple as the ball goes in,” Davenport said.
Each Bellarmine starter has contributed at least 10 points and 2 rebounds. Penn had 17 points and 10 assists while guard Juston Betz had 10 points and seven boards. CJ Fleming was the only Bellarmine player to go to the foul line, making three of four while scoring 19.
The bus to Lynchburg leaves at 11:30 a.m. on Friday. Davenport expects the trip to take around 7.5 hours with minimal stops. For Bellarmine basketball, the odometer never sleeps.
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