CRAWFORD | Bellarmine rolls into the Sweet 16, to meet a familia - WDRB 41 Louisville News

CRAWFORD | Bellarmine rolls into the Sweet 16, to meet a familiar opponent

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) — You knew it was going to come down to this. No. 3-ranked Bellarmine and No. 15 Indianapolis in the Midwest Regional final on Tuesday night in Knights Hall.

Scouting report optional.

The teams will meet for the fourth time this season. They also met four times last season. Indianapolis spent time ranked at No. 1 in the nation this season. Bellarmine rose as high as No. 2. This will be the 10th time they've played since January of 2013, and the eighth time in the past two seasons.

Even after Bellarmine dispatched No. 22 ranked Lake Superior State 85-59 Sunday night to reach the NCAA Division II round of 16, Knights coach Scott Davenport acknowledged that the game ahead was going to be a different kind of fight.

The Knights (29-3) have won their first two NCAA games by an average of  25 points. They've beaten Indianapolis (25-5) the last two times the teams have met, 73-65 in Knights Hall on Feb. 21, then 81-73 in the GLVC Tournament a little more than a week ago. But none of those matter now. Indianapolis ended Bellarmine's season a year ago in the regional.

“It's not a best-of-five, it's one game,” Davenport said. “You've got to go play great basketball, possession by possession, segment by segment, half by half, game by game. And that's what we've concentrated on the entire year. So we won't ask them to do anything we haven't done all year. They're a great team, we're  great team. There's 16 teams left out of 211. You're not going to get a bad team. They're 25-5, and playing tremendous basketball. Two great teams for the right to go to the Elite Eight, that's how it's supposed to be.”

The biggest improvement in Bellarmine this season has been defense. While Virginia is making a national name for itself using the “pack-line” defense, Bellarmine, too, has adopted it this season, and Sunday night used it to hound Lake Superior State, ranked 22nd in NCAA Division II, into 32.8 percent shooting.

“Just a tremendous defensive effort,” Davenport said. “. . . It didn't feel like it but we outrebounded them 39-37. We shot 53 percent, with 20 assists on 29 baskets. We were 18 of 21 from the free-throw line. All the things you have to do to win in the postseason, we did tonight. . . . Only seven turnovers, and they started pressing us with 16 minutes to play. . . . You can break down all the stats you want to. There's five 4-minute segments in the second half, and we won four of them and tied one. That's the only stat that matters now.”

The Bellarmine balance: Five players had at least three assists, with Jake Thelen and point guard Chris Whitehead leading the way with four. Whitehead finished with 16 points. Thelen had 15 points and 10 rebounds. Troutman had 13 points and George Suggs had 12, on 4-of-5 shooting from three-point range. The Knights made 9 of 16 three-pointers.

“Our inside guys are tremendous passers, Jake, George, Josh (Sewell and Derksen), both of them, you have to double team them, so it helps with all the rest of us just spotting up and getting locked and loaded and ready to shoot,” said senior guard Corbin Maynard, who went 2-of-2 from three-point range off the bench Sunday. “We do a lot of work in individuals, just hundreds of shots, so we're ready to catch and shoot.”

And repetition, too, will take the Knights into their matchup with Indianapolis.

“It feels like the 17th time we've played them this season,” forward Josh Derksen said. “They know what we're going to do. We know what they're going to do. It's just going to come down to who is the better basketball team and who plays better on the day.”

Davenport, when asked about playing the same team so many times over the course of three seasons, just shook his head. In NCAA Division I, the tournament committee goes to great pains to keep teams from having regular season matchups in early rounds. In Division II, the regionalization of the tournament means you face the same team over and over, even if both teams are in the top five in the nation, which has happened in past years, especially in this area of the country.

“Geez, wow,” Davenport said. “. . . It's going to come down to possession by possession. What you find in these big games is that they're games of moments. And you just cannot have negative moments. You've got to create positive moments. If you go down and have an unforced turnover or miss a shot, you've got to get back and erase the mistake. You can't let that loss of two points turn into a five-point swing. You've just got to do that with consistent effort, mentally and physically. Our devotion tomorrow will be every bit as much mental as it will physical. That process is already in place. We're a healthy team. Everybody's great. We'll come ready to play. I'm thrilled that the game is here. The energy in this building the last two nights has been what college basketball is really all about.

“I told our seniors to put themselves and stay in the moment and enjoy playing in this atmosphere. The sands in the hourglass now for them are racing. I just told them to make sure they enjoy all of this.”

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