Bellarmine eases by N. Kentucky
Benedetti, Dowe combine for 41 points in Knights win
LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Bellarmine placed four players in double figures, built an 18-point lead in the second half and held on for an 87-82 victory against Northern Kentucky in Knights Hall. The top-seeded Knights (29-2) defeated the fourth-seeded Norse for the third time this season and advanced to Tuesday night’s regional championship game, where they will face Ferris State for a trip to the NCAA Division II Elite Eight.
Justin Benedetti scored 22 points and grabbed six rebounds for Bellarmine, which is ranked No. 2 nationally in the NCAA Division II poll. Chris Dowe added 19 points, including three baskets in the final two minutes that extinguished NKU’s comeback hopes.
Josh Tabb and Jon Van Hoose each finished with 21 points for NKU, which ended the season 21-9. The Norse fell behind by 18 points with 12 minutes remaining in the game, but Tabb and Van Hoose sparked a 13-2 run that cut the Bellarmine lead to 66-59 with 9:50 left on the clock.
Van Hoose buried a trio of 3-pointers during the run, and Tabb capped the spurt with a jumper in the lane.
Bellarmine eventually pushed its lead to 73-62 with 6:41 left when Benedetti made a jumper, but NKU responded with a Van Hoose 3-pointer and a Tabb conventional three-point play to cut the Knights advantage to 73-68.
After a Braydon Hobbs basket extended the Bellarmine lead to 75-68, Dennis Gagai drained a 3-pointer with 4:34 remaining to make it a 75-71 game. With 57 seconds left, Bobby Shannon converted a layup to cut the Bellarmine advantage to 84-82, but Dowe countered by knocking down a short jumper with 33 seconds remaining to extend the lead to 86-82.
Van Hoose missed a 3-pointer with 21 seconds left, and Jeremy Kendle sealed the win by making one of two free throws.
Hobbs collected a double-double for Bellarmine with 15 points and 11 assists, while Luke Sprague finished with 17 points. The Knights shot 60 percent from the field, including 72.7 percent in the second half.
Malcolm Eleby added 11 points and six assists for NKU, which shot 52.5 percent from the field. The Norse were 7-for-14 from 3-point range in the second half and finished 9-for-24 from long range.
Van Hoose drained six 3-pointers en route to scoring his career-high 21 points. NKU still owns a 43-35 edge against Bellarmine in the all-time series. Bellarmine, however, is 7-1 against NKU in the last eight meetings.