LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – Bellarmine coach Scott Davenport thought maybe it was housekeeping when the 1 p.m. knock came on his hotel room door in Florence, Alabama, on Saturday. Instead, it was a hotel manager telling him that they were about to get slammed with Valentine’s Day bookings, and that he and his team would need to get out.
Happy Valentine’s Day.
The Bellarmine coaches scrambled, found another hotel that would let the team hang out in a conference room, and proceeded to spend the day with their players watching basketball games and hanging out in advance of Saturday’s 7 p.m. game at North Alabama.
Davenport was a bit worried. It completely upended the team’s routine. But instead of messing with its mental state, he said, "The guys had a great time. We were all in the same room. Some guys took naps on the floor. We had guys getting treatments. We watched basketball all day."
And then the Knights proceeded to run North Alabama out of the gym, building a 30-point lead before coasting to an 87-63 victory, their 10th straight.
A rundown of where Bellarmine stands:
— It remains in first place in the ASUN at 8-2 in league play. Liberty is right behind, at 6-2.
— It now has the fifth-longest active winning streak in NCAA Division I – in its first season in Division I. Gonzaga (20), Belmont (19), Baylor (17) and Loyola Chicago (11) are the only teams with longer streaks.
After the game, in which Bellarmine scored 42 points off 25 UNA turnovers and held the home team to just seven two-point field goals, Davenport said he was thrilled with his team’s execution – and its ability to roll with the punches.
"I won't hide what I said to them after the game," Davenport said. "That was great basketball tonight. I've never seen a team only shoot five twos the whole first half. We played incredible defense tonight, and then the offense was just incredible. To be a part of this tonight, a two-game road swing, they should enjoy it, because they earned. it. Nobody gave us anything."
Four Bellarmine players scored in double figures, led by Dylan Penn with 17 points and Ethan Claycomb with 15. Pedro Bradshaw added 14 points and CJ Fleming had 11. Bellarmine shot 55.7% from the field and dished out 19 assists.
But Davenport was most pleased with his team’s defense, which kept North Alabama out of the lane all night and stifled the team, despite it shooting 13 of 28 from three-point range.
The Knights also frustrated UNA by taking nine charges in the game.
"We've improved in that area, by design," Davenport said. "People brag about our offense, and tonight we had 19 assists, but why not play defense totally together just like you do offense? We watched the film last night as a staff. We were incredibly critical of ourselves...Our players took what they saw on film to heart and came out determined to play better."
From early day worries, Davenport settled in with high spirts for the long ride home. It was particularly gratifying after preparing for two other possible opponents early in the week, before being routed to UNA as a COVID adjustment.
"I was worried about everything," he said. "Our players never turned a hair. ... it’s a special group."
Copyright 2020 WDRB Media. All Rights Reserved.