It’s clear the Bellarmine University men’s basketball team didn’t want to just join the ASUN party.
The Knights want to crash it.
On Saturday night at Alico Arena, Bellarmine completed the sweep of Florida Gulf Coast after pulling away in a superb second half for a convincing 80-63 victory in ASUN play.
“There’s nothing better in college basketball than road wins,” Knights Coach Scott Davenport said, before adding, “Now, we had a great following from the Louisville people down here.”
Bellarmine (5-5, 2-2 ASUN) defeated Florida Gulf Coast (5-4, 0-2) on back-to-back days by double digits. However, the wins unfolded in very different fashion. In Friday’s matchup, the Knights built a 21-point advantage at halftime and led by as many as 27 in the second half but needed to turn back an Eagles rally to complete the 74-60 victory.
On Saturday, Bellarmine trailed by eight in the first half before cutting the deficit to 38-36 at the break after senior guard CJ Fleming drilled a pair of much-needed 3-pointers just ahead of the intermission. The second half may have represented the Knights’ best performance of the season thus far as they dominated the final eight minutes in turning a close game into a romp.
Bellarmine shot 60.7 percent over the final 20 minutes and limited FGCU to 32 percent in that same segment. The Knights outscored the Eagles 44-25 in the second stanza.
“That was one amazing half of basketball right there,” Davenport said. “In the second half, we were cheerleaders with the way they were executing and rebounding. Three times the official had to tell the whole bench to sit down.”
Ethan Claycomb supplied a career- and game-high 17 points and a career-best six assists for Bellarmine. The senior forward canned seven of his 11 shots, including 3-of-6 from downtown, and grabbed five rebounds. Junior guard Juston Betz also delivered perhaps the top game of his college tenure, collecting a career-high 12 points on 4-for-5 shooting with four assists.
Fleming and junior guard Pedro Bradshaw notched 12 points apiece, and sophomore forward Nick Thelen chipped in 10 as Bellarmine had five double-figure scorers. Junior guard Dylan Penn distributed seven assists.
After trailing by two at halftime, Claycomb scored seven straight points for Bellarmine to open the second half and provide the Knights a lead they would never relinquish. With 7:45 left, that advantage was only two, but Bellarmine followed with a crucial 9-0 run capped by a savvy move for a layup by Betz.
Florida Gulf Coast never got closer than 10 thereafter. Bradshaw, who had a big second half, combined with Penn and Betz to go 7-for-8 from the charity stripe down the stretch as the Knights continuously added to their lead.
“That was Bellarmine basketball on both ends,” Davenport said. “Defense – that’s where it started. I think the communication on this team is underrated. That’s a lost art.
“We challenged them at halftime to win five four-minute wars, and we went 5-0 tonight.”
Bellarmine will host Stetson on Friday and Saturday in Freedom Hall.
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