CRAWFORD | Bellarmine saves its best for last, but Cincinnati cr - WDRB 41 Louisville News

CRAWFORD | Bellarmine saves its best for last, but Cincinnati cruises 89-61

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Bellarmine's Daniel Ramser presents a warm-up jersey to a young fan from Norton Children's Hospital's oncology unit. (WDRB photo by Eric Crawford) Bellarmine's Daniel Ramser presents a warm-up jersey to a young fan from Norton Children's Hospital's oncology unit. (WDRB photo by Eric Crawford)
Bellarmine's coaches and players pose with patients from the Norton Children's Hospital oncology unit. (WDRB photo by Eric Crawford) Bellarmine's coaches and players pose with patients from the Norton Children's Hospital oncology unit. (WDRB photo by Eric Crawford)
Bellarmine's Scott Davenport shouts instructions to his team. (WDRB photo by Eric Crawford) Bellarmine's Scott Davenport shouts instructions to his team. (WDRB photo by Eric Crawford)
Hall of fame coach Denny Crum and Darrell Griffith wave to the crowd at Freedom Hall. (WDRB photo by Eric Crawford) Hall of fame coach Denny Crum and Darrell Griffith wave to the crowd at Freedom Hall. (WDRB photo by Eric Crawford)
Bellarmine guard Jarek Coles beats Cincinnati's full-court pressure. (WDRB photo by Eric Crawford) Bellarmine guard Jarek Coles beats Cincinnati's full-court pressure. (WDRB photo by Eric Crawford)

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – The best part of this game came at the end, after Cincinnati had put away Bellarmine 89-61 in Freedom Hall before a crowd of 4,135. The Bellarmine players formed a line, picked up the shooting shirts they’d warmed up in, and headed for a group of kids and their parents, who had gathered on the court.

The kids were from the oncology unit at Norton Hospital. Each player wore a shooting shirt that bore a name on the back other than his own. The names corresponded with the kids.

In that moment, Bellarmine players disappointed that they hadn’t played closer to No. 12-ranked Cincinnati were reminded that maybe it wasn’t the end of the world. A couple of the kids who were supposed to have been at the game to greet the Knights didn’t get to come, because they had to go to the hospital for treatments. Another had to leave because a wheelchair ride didn’t allow for a later stay.

Regardless, after the game, and the interviews, Bellarmine’s players decided that they would go to the hospital to finish with the kids.

“That was a neat thing,” Bellarmine coach Scott Davenport said after the game.

So was the game itself, even if the crowd was far smaller than Davenport envisioned or hoped for, and his team played well only in spurts.

“I’m very appreciative of Mick (Cronin) and the entire administration at Cincinnati,” Davenport said. “That’s Mick’s best team, hands down, not even close. They had 19 assists, 10 turnovers. Three starters back from a team that won 30 games. They’re really good. We played 13 people tonight, by design, to get us ready for the toughest schedule we’ve ever played. We’re not going to get any better playing 6-7 guys tonight. But their strength and athleticism is impossible for us to simulate. Plus they’re a veteran ballclub that plays with great confidence. We got better.”

The game was played in runs. Cincinnati got up by 20. Bellarmine cut it to 11. That pattern was repeated several times. Davenport said his team played well in a 10-minute stretch, executing and getting easy baskets on offense, playing good help defense and getting some stops. But he said he didn’t see enough of it.

“We played hard we just weren’t very consistent,” Davenport said. “Some of that’s on us as coaches because playing time was pre-determined. We’re seeing certain lineups with certain lineups, for us as coaches to learn. The last 7-8 minutes we’re playing the score, but those other lineups were predetermined. Now we’ll start other lineups on Saturday, and different guys again next Tuesday in the KFC Yum! Center. . . . But when you play a team like Cincinnati when you’re us, you’ve got to be the greatest fundamental team who ever played. And when you’re not, you get exposed.”

Cincinnati coach Mick Cronin, who worked with Davenport under Rick Pitino during his time in Louisville, said he’s excited about the potential for Cincinnati, and that he likes to play Bellarmine because it exposes his team to the kind of passing Bellarmine uses.

“Preparing for Bellarmine is the reason we play them, because Scotty is the best offensive coach in the country,” Cronin said. “It made us better, because once our guys started watching Bellarmine’s film, they started passing the ball the way Bellarmine passes the ball. Our defense, obviously was suffocating, but we shot 54 percent because we had 19 assists. We got a deep team this year; we have a chance to be good.

“We haven’t passed the ball well all preseason, until I started putting on Bellarmine tape four days ago. They led the world in field goal percentage. Division I, II, III, NAIA, NBA, Europe. They led the world because of the way they pass and move. Obviously, we’re more athletic, and its hard for them to make shots against a team with our kind of speed.”

Five Cincinnati players scored in double figures, led by senior Kyle Washington with 15 points. Bellarmine got 17 points and seven rebounds from Adam Eberhard, who spent much of the game in foul trouble.

"I feel bad, I should'e let Scotty get a 'W' tonight," Cronin said. "But I haven't been to a Final Four and the guy goes every other year. Scotty Davenport is Louisville, period. I don't think he should be at Bellarmine. How he's not a Division I coach, when you look at what he's done for Bellarmine . . . he's everything you would want in a coach, because not only does he win but he wins in the right way. He's a tremendous ambassador for the university. . . . But he probably belongs here His bank account would be bigger if he were somewhere else, but he is Louisville."

Davenport thanked the fans who came, but couldn’t mask his disappointment that there weren’t more of them in the stands.

“I was so appreciative to everybody that did come,” he said. “I just thought we’d have more.  It’s just hard to hide my – I just thought it would be a lot more. We worked on it as hard as we can. And I’m so appreciative of those that did.”

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