March 14, 2009

Courtesy of Bellarmine Athletics

FINDLAY, Ohio - The Bellarmine University men's basketball team got a career high 24 points from sophomore forward Nick Holmes as the Knights defeated the Kentucky Wesleyan Panthers 76-65 in the opening round of the Midwest Regional of the NCAA Division II Championship this afternoon in Findlay, Ohio.
 
Bellarmine, the No. 2 seed, improved to 25-6 with the win, which set a school record for most wins in a season. The win was the first in the NCAA tournament for the Knights since 1989. Kentucky Wesleyan ends its season with a 19-9 mark.

The Panthers clawed their way into a five-point lead with 4:32 remaining in the first half, but the Knights closed on a 14-0 run to take a 39-30 lead into the locker room at halftime.

In the second half, the Knights kept working the ball inside to Holmes, and he responded by scoring 19 of his 24 points after the break.

"I think our depth might have worn them down a bit in the second half, and Chartrael (Hall) and Braydon (Hobbs) were able to push the ball up the court, and then they found me down the floor," Holmes said.

"This was a great team win for us," said Bellarmine Coach Scott Davenport. "Back in the locker room, no one probably even knows how many points each other scored. They just know that there only 32 teams left in the tournament, and they are one of them."

Davenport also acknowledged the large contingent of Bellarmine fans that traveled to the NCAA tournament. "Our players and staff have just been overwhelmed by the outpouring of support from the Bellarmine fans," he said.

As a team, the Knights continued to shoot the ball well, connecting on 52.1 percent of their field goals as five Bellarmine players scored in double figures. Sophomore guard Justin Benedetti was just one point shy of his career high as he poured in 18 points on 7 of 14 shooting, including four of eight from beyond the 3-point arc. Hobbs and Hall pitched in 11 and 10 respectively, and Kevin Allen came off the bench to score 11.

Kentucky Wesleyan was led by guard T.J. Smith, who had 22 points.

Bellarmine, the No. 2 seed, now advances to face the No. 6 seed Lake Superior State, as the Lakers upset Northern Kentucky University 75-72 in double overtime in the opening game of the regional.