The No. 2 Bellarmine University Knights rebounded from their first loss of the season with a convincing 78-62 win over Southern Indiana on Monday night in a Great Lakes Valley Conference battle in Knights Hall.
The Screaming Eagles (13-5, 4-2 GLVC) came in with a slight lead over the Knights in the GLVC points standings, but Bellarmine (15-1, 6-1 GLVC) regained the league lead by expanding a four-point halftime lead with a convincing performance in the second period.
Senior guard Brent Bach poured in a career-high 28 points, hitting 11 of 16 shots, and junior Adam Eberhard was just two assists shy of a triple double with 16 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists.
The game came just two days after the Knights were upset victims at Wisconsin-Parkside, and Bellarmine Coach Scott Davenport said he was pleased with the statement his players made with their performance tonight.
“Did we play perfect? No,” Davenport said. “Did we play with incredible personal pride? Yes. And what’s key is they did it together.”
The Screaming Eagles scored the first five points of the game, but the five-point lead would be largest for the visitors. The Knights responded with six straight to take their first lead, and when Alex Cook drilled a three pointer from the left baseline at the 10:03 mark of the first half, he gave the Knights the lead for good at 20-18.
Southern Indiana came out with a lot of emotion in its upset bid, and the emotions may have gotten the better them in the first half as USI’s Nate Hansen was whistled for an early technical foul for taunting and minutes later forward Julias Rajala was called for a flagrant foul and ejected from the game.
The Knights went on to build a 29-20 lead in the first half, but four straight empty possessions allowed USI to stay competitive. The Screaming Eagles trimmed the margin to four, which was the difference at halftime when BU owned a 37-33 advantage.
Coming back onto the court in the second half, the Knights got the opening possession and perfectly executed a play that saw Eberhard deliver an alley-oop pass to Cook who slammed it with two hands.
The play sort of foreshadowed what would be a great 20 minutes of basketball for the Knights, who went on to connect on 15 of their next 25 shots while Southern Indiana made just 11 of 29 second half field goals.
For the game, the Knights outshot USI 52.9 percent to 39 percent, but perhaps the most surprising statistic was that Bellarmine outrebounded the Screaming Eagles 34-33, marking just the second time all year a team has bested USI on the glass.
The Knights saw a bit of a shift in their starting lineup with Chivarsky Corbett and Cook joining Eberhard, Bach and Jarek Coles in the starting five. Coach Davenport made the switch to give the Knights more height while also accommodating an injury to normal starter Daniel Ramser.
Cook and Corbert responded with 10 points apiece, and they combined for 10 rebounds and five blocked shots.
Alex Stein led four Screaming Eagles in double figures with 13 with Emmanuel Little contributing a double-double with 12 points and 10 boards.
The Knights return action on Thursday at 8 p.m. when they host GLVC West leader Drury. The Panthers will come into Knights Hall with a 12-2 record and a 5-1 record in the conference.
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by John Spugnardi