Courtesy Bellarmine Athletics
The nation’s longest home court win streak looked to be in serious jeopardy at intermission, but the third-ranked Bellarmine Knights turned in what Coach Scott Davenport termed a “courageous” second half effort to turn away the upset-minded Maryville Saints 70-63 in a Great Lakes Valley Conference game Thursday night at Knights Hall.

The visitors came out and opened a 15-point lead in the first half to put the Knights in the biggest hole they’ve faced all season. However, Bellarmine responded by winning the last six four-minute game segments to pull out the victory and extend its home court win streak to 51 games.

“It was an incredibly courageous effort,” said Davenport, who chalked up career victory number 299. “Defensively in the second half, we hold them to 36 percent shooting. I know it sounds cliché, but it was such a team spirit defensively. It wasn’t five one-on-one games trying to guard your man; it was us guarding them. Our defense created our offense on a night when it just wasn’t going down.”

Bellarmine, which came in the second-best shooting team in the nation, was held to just 40.7 percent in the first 20 minutes. Meanwhile, the Saints scorched the nets at a 53.8 percent clip in the first half to go into the locker room with a 35-26 halftime cushion.

The second half was a complete reversal with the Knights heating up to 58.6 percent while Maryville was just 12 of 33 from the field for 36.4 percent.

While the Knights’ defense gets credit for the comeback victory, Bellarmine can also point to excellent ball control. The Knights committed just four turnovers the entire game and did not cough it up at all in the second period. Bellarmine owned a 15-2 advantage in points off turnovers, which compensated for Maryville’s dominance on the glass. The Saints outrebounded Bellarmine 38-28, to outscore the Knights 17-5 in second chance points.

Bellarmine’s Adam Eberhard had a solid first half with 14 points. His layup with 36 seconds remaining in the half put him over the 1,000-point plateau as he became the 39th Knight to reach the milestone. The junior finished with a game-high 22 points while adding seven rebounds, four assists, a blocked shot and two steals without a turnover.

While Eberhard provided the first half firepower, senior Brent Bach paced the Bellarmine offense in the second period, scoring all 18 of his points after halftime. Bach scored in a variety of ways, drilling three of four three pointers while also converting drives to basket and pull-up jumpers.

The Knights also got solid contributions from the bench, which outscored Maryville’s reserves 20-3:
> Parker Chitty was a spark offensively and defensively coming up with three steals at crucial moments of the game and adding five points and handing out three assists.
> CJ Fleming also added five points and three assists and saw his fan club grow with an impressive hustle play in which he leapt over the Bellarmine bench and crashed into the stands trying to track down a loose ball. After landing with a thud, the freshman shrugged off the pain and stayed in the game, playing hard-nosed defense for the Knights.
> Chivarsky Corbett netted three of his four shots and yanked down three rebounds in his 12 minutes of action.
> Alex Cook provided the highlight of the night and perhaps sealed the victory when he soared from the right baseline and slammed home an alley-oop pass from Jarek Coles that gave the Knights a seven-point lead with just two minutes remaining.

Maryville, which lost for just the third time this season, got a big night from its big man as center Nolan Berry led the Saints with 18 points while tying for team-high honors with nine rebounds and four assists.

The Knights improve to 12-0 (3-0 GLVC) on the season, which ties for the second best start in school history. The 2008-09 Bellarmine squad won its first 14 games to set the school record.

Maryville slips to 10-3, 2-2 GLVC.

Bellarmine has a short turnaround as they face William Jewell on Saturday afternoon in a 4:15 p.m. game. The Cardinals improved to 13-1 with a victory over Rockhurst tonight.

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by John Spurnardi