EVANSVILLE, Ind.—The No. 5 Bellarmine Knights overwhelmed the Cavaliers of Virginia-Wise 88-47 tonight in the second round of the Bill Joergens Memorial Classic hosted by the University of Southern Indiana on their campus facility, the Physical Activities Center.
After giving up the game's first bucket, the Knights ran out to a 19-9 lead less than eight minutes into the contest and were never seriously threatened the rest of the way. By halftime, the lead had grown to 24, and Bellarmine started the second half with a 15-2 run to put the game away early.
For the second straight night, the comfortable scoring margin allowed Bellarmine Coach Scott Davenport to substitute liberally, and it showed on the stat sheet. Bellarmine's co-leading scorers—Max Clemons and Alex Pritchett—both came off the bench to score 12 points with starters Keisten Jones and Jake Thelen also hitting double digits with 10 apiece.
The Bellarmine stat sheet showed balance from top to bottom with a lot of reserves seeing significant playing time. Clemons logged the most minutes with 21, followed by Jones with 20. The increase in playing time led to 33 new career highs being set or tied by Bellarmine players in tonight's contest.
The balanced attack indicates strong team camaraderie even though the Knights have eight new players this season. Davenport said the camaraderie is "valuable, and it's only going to get better; this was our first road trip." He added, "I feel, and most importantly (the team) feels that we're better this Monday than we were last Monday."
Bellarmine, the 2-time defending national leader in field goal percentage, had its second straight night shooting well over 50 percent, connecting on 34-60 shots for 56.7 percent against the Cavaliers. The Knights also played well on the defensive end, holding UVA-Wise to just 35.3 percent shooting and limiting the team known for its fondness of the 3-pointer to just 5-of-19 shooting from long range.
The Knights also dominated the glass, holding a 47-22 rebounding advantage while allowing just three offensive rebounds.
Although strong individual performances were turned in up and down the lineup, perhaps the most encouraging sign for the Bellarmine coaching staff was the play of their front line players. Thelen, who has started all four games this year, turned in his most productive game as a Knight with 10 points and seven rebounds in just 16 minutes of action. Pritchett added a game-high eight rebounds to go along with his 12 points while Stephen Asihene saw 12 minutes of action and registered seven points and five rebounds.
For Virginia-Wise, an NAIA team from the Mid-South Conference, Paul Evans led the way with 12 points and native Kentuckian Matt Day chipped in 11.
The win ups the Bellarmine record to 4-0 on the season while the Cavaliers fall to 3-6.
Bellarmine now gets a bit of a break as the players enter their final week of classes before traveling to Montgomery, W.V., to take on West Virginia Tech on Dec. 1 in a 2 p.m. contest.