CRAWFORD | No. 3 Bellarmine racking up miles and victories, rolls past Lewis 78-59
After winning three games in five days -- and traveling 3,000 miles to do it -- the Bellarmine basketball team has again established itself as one of the national teams to beat in 2017-18.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – Bellarmine University basketball coach Scott Davenport knew he had a special team beofre he took it nearly 3,000 miles for three basketball games in five days during Thanksgiving week. But it never hurts to make sure.
After his No. 2-ranked Knights improved to 7-0 with a 78-59 win over Lewis in their Great Lakes Valley Conference opener in Knights Hall, Davenport is pretty darn sure of it.
“Those three games in five games were tough, and these players fought through with great practice intensity . . . ,” Davenport said. “At the same time it’s the end of the academic semester. So I’m really proud. We say the word ‘family,’ with every huddle, and I added it up this morning, and the best I can come up is that just between 690 and maybe 800 times, we’ll say the word family. So tonight, all we wanted to do was defend as a family, that means defend for and with each other and attack for and with each other. And we did. And I think the 21 assists are indicative of this. So this was a great program win.”
By bus, the Knights traveled to Detroit on Monday, Nov. 20, for a Tuesday afternoon game against Wayne State, which they won 65-50. They arrived back in Louisville at about 4 a.m. on Wednesday. They had a short practice at 3 p.m. on Wednesday, then reconvened at just before 4 a.m. on Thanksgiving morning to travel to Miami.
At 2 p.m. the next day, they beat the No. 5-ranked team in NCAA Division II, Barry University, 75-69, then 20 hours later tipped off against Lynn University, winning that game 76-74.
They were banged up. They were tired. And they had the time of their lives. They stayed in Don Shula’s Miami hotel. They didn’t get to a beach, but hung out around the pool. Everywhere they went, Davenport said, he got compliments. From bus drivers, hotel managers, restaurant personnel.
“A group of guys like this, we’re 20 years old, it’s 80 degrees, you can’t beat it,” junior All-American Adam Eberhard said. “We beat a phenomenal team. Barry, I was very impressed with the way they carried themselves. It was a huge win for us, and we turned around and got another great win the next night. It was just a great trip for us. You can talk about the team bonding and all that. . . . I’m a big NBA fan and it was just fun to do Louisville to Detroit to Louisville to Miami just to have that feel of an NBA kind of schedule – without the first-class charters.”
Bellarmine flew back after beating Lynn on a cramped commercial flight. Davenport was thinking about the hectic, chaotic rush his team had endured. Across the aisle, senior guard Jarek Coles said something that stopped him in his tracks.
“Our final descent in Louisville, Jarek was sitting across the aisle, and I told him, ‘I’m really proud of you. Great job,’” Davenport said. “And he told me, ‘Coach, that’s the greatest trip I’m ever going to have in my life.’ And I said, ‘No, you’re 21 years old. Don’t sell yourself short.’ But he said, ‘I’ll remember every second of this trip.’ And you’ve got two guys sitting across the aisle getting emotional the day after Thanksgiving. And that’s very, very special.”
Bellarmine may not get first-class seats, but it is playing first-class basketball, doing what it always does. Before Saturday’s game, the Knights ranked fourth nationally in field goal percentage at 53.2 percent. They were right on schedule at 52.8 percent in Saturday’s win, including 46.2 percent (12 of 26) from three-point range. They dished out 21 assists for their 28 field goals, and outrebounded a Lewis team that played Southern Indiana into overtime in its last game.
And they’re doing it despite injury.
“We lost Tyler (Jenkins). He just came back today. Rhett Troutman had a thumb. Adam had an ankle,” Davenport said. “We looked more like a MASH unit than a basketball team for about 10 days. But this was a big step forward. We will get Alex Cook on the 14th of December, to get our roster intact. When you go to practice every day and guys are committed to getting better, teaching is a lot of fun.”
Eberhard typifies that. He’s been playing through injury. He was in a stabilizing boot for two days earlier this week and sat out of practice. He came back and got in a couple of practices, which was important because his play is crucial for the team. Despite being banged up, Eberhard finished with 14 points, nine rebounds, three assists and a steal.
"He makes everybody better,” Davenport said. “He’s such a student of the game. These guys are getting old fashioned, really watching basketball, kind fo like coaches watch basketball. We’ll get ready to watch film and they’ll ask, ‘Did you see so-and-so last night?’ That’s a lot of fun.”
Eberhard leads the Knights in scoring (14 points per game) and rebounding (5.4 per game). He’s shooting 66 percent from the field and shoots by far more free throws than any other player on the team, making 91.2 percent of them (31 of 34).
“We’ve got a lot of good players,” Eberhard said. “The way I see it, if I can get in the lane, teams are going to collapse on me, and we’ve got a lot of guys I can get the ball to, guys who are good shooters who know how to play the game, and I like passing. We’ve got an experienced team, guys who have played in the Elite Eight or Final Four, so we have guys who know what to do. For us, getting wins is all that matters. I’m not worried about statistics or labels or anything like that.”
One of Eberhard’s prime targets, 6-7 sophomore Ben Weyer, is among the better three-point shooters in the nation at 56 percent, and led the Knights with 19 points on Saturday.
“I think we’re fairly pleased to be 7-0,” Eberhard said. “But there’s still an awful lot we can improve on. We see it on the tape, on every play, things we can control. . . . We watch the film and see how good we really can be. We know the ceiling is high for us.”
They should know. They put in the miles – on the ground and in the air.
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