The Bellarmine University men’s basketball team faces another tough travel schedule this week as the Knights play three games in five days with all three games coming against Great Lakes Valley Conference East Division foes.
On Thursday, Bellarmine will be in Romeoville, Illinois to face the Lewis Flyers before continuing its northerly travel with a game at Wisconsin-Parkside on Saturday afternoon. The Knights then return home to host Southern Indiana on Monday night.
The Flyers come into Thursday’s game ranked fifth in the five-team East Division standings with a 2-3 league record. Interestingly, Lewis is fifth overall in the 15-team conference according to the GLVC’s new point system rankings.
The translation is that Lewis’ record may not be among the best, but they have been playing strong competition. Part of that competition includes a 59-78 loss to Bellarmine in Knights Hall back on Dec. 2. In that contest, Bellarmine led from wire-to-wire riding a strong 3-point shooting game to lead by as many as 27 before the Flyers closed to within 19 by the final horn.
At home this season, the Flyers have a perfect 5-0 record with wins over two opponents they share with Bellarmine–Saginaw Valley and Wayne State. Lewis, 7-8 overall, also owns home overtime wins over GLVC foes Indianapolis and Illinois Springfield as well as a 110-57 thrashing of Robert Morris-Peoria at Neil Carey Arena.
Leading the Flyers this season are forward Cristen Wilson, who ranks 10th in the GLVC scoring at 15.6 per game and fifth in the league with 8.9 rebounding average. Guard Delaney Blaylock puts up 16.7 points a game for Lewis, which is fifth in the conference.
On Saturday, the Knights will face a rested team as the Rangers are idle on Thursday night. Wisconsin-Parkside (4-10, 2-2 GLVC) is on a modest two-game win streak having won their last two GLVC games over McKendree and Missouri S&T.
Bellarmine and Parkside also have met once already this season with the Knights taking a 76-40 victory over a short-handed Rangers team. In the game at Knights Hall, Bellarmine jumped out to a 10-2 advantage, and UWP could never mount a serious threat as the Rangers shot just 30 percent for the game.
Adam Bonk and Jameel Moore pace the Ranger offense with both averaging just over 13 points a game. Bonk enters play this week as the GLVC’s leading 3-point shooter, making better than 55 percent from downtown this season.
When Bellarmine returns home on Monday to take on the Screaming Eagles, it could be for the conference lead. The teams currently rank 1-2 in the GLVC’s points ranking. Southern Indiana also will be coming into Knights Hall with more rest than Bellarmine as USI hosts Indianapolis on Thursday and gets a rare Saturday day off.
The Screaming Eagles are 12-4 overall and 3-1 in GLVC play with their only conference loss coming on the road last week at Drury. Alex Stein ranks third in the league in scoring at 19.2 points a game for USI, and the Eagles are again one of the GLVC’s best rebounding teams, ranking second with a +9.6 rebounding margin. Other top players for USI include guard Marcellous Washington, who is fourth in the GLVC in assists, and DayJar Dixon, who ranks ninth in the conference by averaging 7.9 rebounds per game.
The Knights, meanwhile, are coming off one of their most memorable weeks this season with two solid victories and number of team and personal achievements. After trailing by 15 in last Thursday’s game against Maryville, Bellarmine stormed back for a seven-point victory as junior Adam Eberhard became the 39th member of BU’s 1,000-point club. The Knights followed that performance with an 80-58 win at William Jewell in game that featured teams with a combined record of 25-1 at tipoff. That win gave Bellarmine Coach Scott Davenport win number 300.
Those wins led to a GLVC Player of the Week nod for Brent Bach, who notched career highs in points and rebounds in the William Jewell win, and the NABC honored the Knights as the Division II National Team of the Week.
Bellarmine, which is just one of four remaining DII teams that is undefeated, rose to the No. 1 ranking in the D2SIDA national poll and inched up to No. 2 in the NABC rankings this week. The Knights are 13-0 on the season with a 4-0 mark in league play. The 13 victories to start the season are the second-most in school history. The 2008-09 team won its first 14 games.
Eberhard, a preseason All-American, leads the Knights in scoring and rebounding with averages of 15.5 and 6.5 respectively, and the junior from Evansville adds 3.7 assists per game. Bach adds 13.8 points a game for a team that has nine players averaging six or more points.
As a team, the Knights are posting impressive stats on both ends of the floor. Bellarmine currently ranks second in the nation in field goal percentage at 53.6 percent and third in scoring defense, giving up just 60.8 points per game. All told, the Knights rank in the top 20 in eight different statistical categories.
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by John Spugnardi