Knight Time is Right Time: Bellarmine Rolls into Elite 8

BellarmineIt is a marvel this Madness known as March.

Games given. Tilts taken.

Foes unfamiliar, meeting by chance, reconnoitering to find passage through unknown territory. Rivals familiar, like cousins wary of each other at Thanksgiving dinner, probing for a previously undiscovered flaw to be exploited.

With Bellarmine vs. Indianapolis, pride, revenge and a trip to the Elite 8 on the line, it is most assuredly the latter.

Before the Regional Final Tuesday night, the schools had battled thrice already since the turn of the calendar, with BU holding a 2-1 advantage. The Knights and Greyhounds met four times in ’14. BU 2, UI 2, with the Hoosiers eliminating the Knights from last season’s Dance. And three encounters, the season prior. BU 2, UI 1.

Tuesday’s affair, the eleventh encounter in 26 months, was appropriately cranked to Spinal Tappian 11. To coin a phrase, familiarity breeds contempt.

The schools have the same colors, for heaven’s sake.

This Knights Hall pas de deux was certainly balletic, but way more Apache dance than Swan Lake. Street fight chippy. Full of panache, floor burns, flung elbows, text book back cuts, twine time treys and rising to the considerable occasion.

To trot out an old canard, this was “what college basketball is all about.”

Bellarmine 81, Indianapolis 72. In a struggle, as we are wont to say, much closer than the final score indicates.

* * * * *

The Knights, nervous, fell behind 7-14.

After that initial media stoppage, Jake Thelan tallied on a follow, drained two FTs then scored on a drive. 13-14.

Then, in sequence typical of this back and forth encounter, George Suggs blocked a UI shot, the visitors snatched it back, only to have BU’s Michael Parrish swipe it, push it ahead, getting it to Knight star Thelan, who converted a 1+1 to knot the game at 19.

Bellarmine took control, leading 33-23, with 2:38 to play in the opening half, on a Corbin Maynard trey. Rusty Troutman’s long ball that could have pushed the advantage to 13 rimmed out.

The game turned.

In a matter of seconds, Salim Gloyd converted a four point play. Jordan Loyd drained two FTs, then buried a second chance three with :05 on the clock.

At the break, BU 35, UI 32.

At which juncture, the fun had just begun.

* * * * *

Loyd began the second stanza, as he ended the first. 35 all.

The visitors completed their 14-2 run with two FTs to regain the lead. 37-35.

Then it morphed tit for tat, a back and forth affair.

The game was tied at 37. And at 39. And at 41. Again at 44. One more once at 46.

It was, to fall prey to hyperbole — so scintillating was the game, I can’t help myself — breathtakingly competitive hardwood hostility.

Josh Derksen, who, to be fair, didn’t have one of his better games, then slammed one down on a zesty alley oop from Whitehead, for 48-46 lead. Which was, imagine my surprise, matched by a couple Joe Lawson charity tosses.

The Knights then tapped into their inner spurtability.

With the Greyhounds pony-tailed catalyst/ enforcer Brennan McElroy getting a breather, Derksen blocked a shot, which lead to a Whitehead deuce. 50-48. Thelan stole the ball, then scored a layup on a Troutman feed. 52-48. Then UI’s Loyd was forced to give up the rock, leading to another Whitehead deuce.

Distance at 54-48.

At 8:02, Indy pulled within a deuce at 62-60. Bellarmine, resolute, persevered, pushing ahead, 68-60. During which interlude, there was a short stoppage of play, when one of the green-clad Bellarmine supporters thought it wise to toss an object at the visitors bench. Stupid. But, fortunately, no harm, no foul.

Down 8, the Greyhounds didn’t fold, but finally cracked. With 4:26 to play, Kendall Vieke committed what I believe was the first unforced error of the game. Exhausted, he simply dropped a pass out of bounds.

George Suggs drilled a three. 71-60. Ball game.

* * * * *

Jake Thelan. 24 points on 10/12 shooting. 15 rebounds. Maximum intensity.

George Suggs. 5 blocks. 4 rebounds. 9 points.

Chris Whitehead. 19 points. 6 assists.

Rusty Troutman. 10 points. 5 rebounds. 5 assists.

The Knights again broke the 50% mark from the field. They scored 23 points on 13 Greyhound gaffes.1

* * * * *

Each trip for a Knights game brings up the same thought.

Why don’t I come here more often?

Parking’s easy. Popcorn’s cheap. Cheerleaders actually cheer. The Pep Band’s funky. Student Section’s engaged. And, Scott Davenport’s teams play beautiful basketball. At both ends of the court.

They shoot a high percentage, because the players and ball are always moving. Someone more often than not has a wide open shot eventually. They are fundamentally sound, and eerily unselfish.

On defense, they are rarely out of place. They close quickly.

John Houseman and Smith Barney would be proud. Bellarmine wins the Old Fashioned Way. They earn their Ws.

And, with last night’s third vanquishment of rival Indianapolis this season, the #3 Knights earned a trip to the NCAA Elite Eight, where they’ll face off with #4 Minnesota State-Moorhead.

— Seedy K

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