LOUISVILLE, Ky.-How sweet it is. The top-seeded Bellarmine University Knights punched their ticket to the NCAA Division II Sweet 16 with an 85-59 victory over the fourth-seeded Lake Superior State Lakers on Saturday night in Knights Hall in the Midwest Regional Semifinals.
The Knights (29-3 and ranked third nationally) used a balanced scoring attack and a stifling defense to post the 26-point win, the worst defeat of Lakers' season. Bellarmine had four players score in double figures, led by Chris Whitehead's 16, and held LSSU to just 32.8 percent shooting.
Jake Thelen posted his 16th double double of the season with 15 points and 10 rebounds, while the 22nd-ranked Lakers were led by Tony Harris' 20 points. Lake Superior, which saw its season end with a 26-7 record, also got a double-double from Devin Daly with 16 points and 12 boards.
"We're just delighted to be one of the 16 teams left in the country," said Bellarmine Coach Scott Davenport. "Our motto this year has been to do our job, and that's what we did tonight."
Bellarmine ran out to a 19-9 lead less than 10 minutes into the game and held a 36-24 advantage at the break. George Suggs nailed a three to open the second period, and the Lakers got no closer than 12 the rest of the way.
The Knights made 52.7 percent of their shots and owned a 39-37 edge on the backboards, despite giving up 16 offensive rebounds to the Lakers.
Bellarmine was solid in all phases of the game, and the stats bear that out. The Knights dished out 20 assists on 29 made baskets, committed just seven turnovers, made nine of 16 treys, and converted 18 of 21 free throws.
"All the things you do in postseason play to make you successful, we did them tonight," Davenport said. "I talked to the four seniors at halftime, and I thought those four kids (Whitehead, Thelen, Corbin Maynard, and Josh Sewell) were just outstanding."
Bellarmine now advances the Midwest Regional Final on Thursday at 7:30 where they'll face a familiar foe in the Indianapolis Greyhounds, who posted a 78-59 win over Lewis in the other semifinal tonight. It will mark the fourth meeting between the GLVC powerhouses this season. Indianapolis won the first meeting, 66-62 at home, but Bellarmine has won the two most recent games: 73-65 in Knights Hall on Feb. 21 and 81-73 on March 7 in the GLVC Tournament.
Tickets for the regional final will go on sale Monday at noon in the Knights Hall lobby. A limited number of seats remain. All tickets are $15.