LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – When it comes to the postseason, having the right team means more than playing in the right place. But in NCAA Division II, location is a much bigger impediment. Often, you’re dealing with having to beat the regional favorite on its home court.
That’s why the regular season is so important. And it’s why Bellarmine’s 63-62 loss to Lewis University on a length-of-the-court drive and layup at the buzzer in Knights Hall a couple of weeks ago was so painful. It cost the Knights a chance to play a regional on their home court.
Now, they’ll have to travel to Lewis to try to advance. Bellarmine will open NCAA Tournament play against No. 7 seed Walsh at 3:30 p.m. (Eastern time) on Saturday. A win would earn them a game against No. 3 seed Findlay or No. 6 Drury on Saturday at 6. The regional final is Tuesday at 8 p.m.
Lewis advances as the top seed, having beaten Bellarmine twice in the regular season.
The atmosphere will be challenging. The arena at Lewis holds only 1,100 fans. It’s a difficult scenario, but Bellarmine coach Scott Davenport has some consolation – he may not be playing where he wants to play, but he does think he has the right team. And Bellarmine’s play in the GLVC Tournament in Edwardsville, Ill., only bolstered that feeling.
Lewis is ranked No. 1 in the Midwest Region, but it went down in the GLVC semifinals. Bellarmine did not, beating Drury 65-48 on Sunday for its third consecutive GLVC Tournament crown.
The team defense that led Bellarmine to a No. 1 national ranking earlier this season was back in its midseason form Sunday, holding Drury to a season-low 48 points. The loss ended a 12-game winning streak for NCAA Tournament-bound Drury, which hadn’t lost since falling at Bellarmine on Jan. 24.
“That defensive effort for 40 minutes as a team—not I stop you, but as a team—was extraordinary," Bellarmine coach Scott Davenport said. “And their defense generated their enthusiasm. The team defense was incredible. That team (Drury) is playing as well as anybody in the country."
Bellarmine senior Daniel Ramser was named the outstanding player of the GLVC Tournament .He had 12 points and seven rebounds in the final. Chivarsky Corbett led the Knights with 15 points and eight rebounds. Tyler Jenkins added 14 points.
Walsh (24-7) was an upset winner over Findlay in the Great Midwest Athletic Conference, beating Findlay 58-52 in overtime.
Nobody knows how a bracket will shake out. On the road, you’re faced with the chance of a strange officiating call going your opponent’s way, especially in Division II. But more important than location, Bellarmine is playing well as it heads north.
It pulled off the first GLVC Tournament three-peat since Kentucky Wesleyan did it in 1998, ’99 and 2000.
Having lost on the road in the regional last season, this Bellarmine team is hoping it can use that experience to overcome this obstacle a year later.
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