Bellarmine basketball to visit Gonzaga on November 19
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - Bellarmine has put together a loaded non-conference schedule for 2021-22.
“Tuesday, November 9, in West Lafayette, Indiana, we’re playing Matt Painter and a tremendous Purdue team, that we’ve seen as high in these preseason rankings as fifth or sixth,” Bellarmine head coach Scotty Davenport told WAVE 3 Sports. “Then we will leave Louisville on Sunday and on Wednesday we will be at St. Mary’s, just outside of San Francisco. On Friday in Spokane to play preseason #1 Gonzaga on Friday, November 19. Then on November 22, we will be in Las Vegas playing UCLA, Final Four participant from a year ago, and on Tuesday night, November 23, we will play Central Michigan and then return to Louisville immediately after the game.”
Gonzaga and UCLA will face off, a rematch of that classic Final Four game, after the Bellarmine-Central Michigan game. Those games are in the Empire Classic.
“It’s an incredibly tall order,” Davenport said. “This is what a program does. The word culture is used in sports all the time now. A program means you have a plan. To recruits, this gets their attention, like they are serious and they are committed and they have a plan. To the players, that’s why we’re in here, the last eight weeks, Monday through Friday at 6:30 in the morning, they’re in that weight room and we finish by practicing from 4:30 to 6.”
The players got a taste of a big time competition last year with a season opening trip to Duke, but scheduled games against UCLA and Gonzaga were canceled.
“It’s gonna tell us how resilient our team is,” Knights senior guard Dylan Penn said. “We’re probably not gonna be the most athletic or the biggest team out there, but how well can we play as a team? How well can we do what we do together? That’s the goal. We’ve played against big teams, powerful teams before and we’ve never folded, so we plan to continue to play the way we always play.”
The Knights were 14-8 and 10-3 in the ASUN in their first season in NCAA Division I.
“In the locker room when we would go over scouts, when we would go over things like that, we were like, hey we can beat some of these teams, and then we just got on a roll, strung off 10, put it together and then had a chance at the league against Liberty,” Knights senior guard CJ Fleming said.
“When Coach D gave us the schedule, we were kind of speechless at first,” Fleming admitted. “Then we were like, wow, this a great opportunity, not only for ourselves, but for the university, the team as a whole and the community to be able to go out there versus, I think some top five teams in the nation, just being able to be on the floor with those guys and trying to get better and see where our team is at versus outside competition. It’s gonna be a fun ride.”
Preseason preparation takes on an added importance with a such a daunting start.
“In the back of your head if you’re going up against Gonzaga and Drew Timme, who you watched throughout March Madness last year, it’s gonna be a little different,” Fleming said. “We’re still gonna prepare the same, it’s just the guys on the other side are gonna be a little different.”
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