Bellarmine reaches first Elite Eight
Knights surge ahead early in second half, hold on to win
LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- A dominating second-half performance carried the No. 2 Bellarmine Knights to an 85-66 victory against Ferris State in the final of the Division II Midwest Regional, sending the Knights to the Elite Eight for the first time.
After Ferris State hit a sizzling 7-11 from 3-point range in the first half, the Bulldogs surged ahead for a 39-37 halftime lead. After the intermission, the Knights quickly asserted themselves, and when Luke Sprague hit a trey at the 16:39 mark to put BU ahead 44-42, the home team never looked back.
“I'm just thrilled and incredibly proud of these players. They have done an outstanding job of representing this university both on and off the court all year long. They deserve this,” said head coach Scott Davenport.
Luke Sprague led the way for Bellarmine with 24 points on nine of 12 shooting, including 3-4 from long range. Chris Dowe added 22 points, including a thunderous dunk at the 1:31 mark to put the exclamation point on the Knights' victory.
Bellarmine, the best shooting team in the nation, again had a strong shooting night, connecting on 29 of 54 shots for 53.7 percent. Conversely, the Bulldogs scored the nets with 60.9 percent shooting in the first half, but Bellarmine put the clamps down to hold FSU to just 33 percent second-half shooting.
A total of five Knights hit double figures with Justin Benedetti tallying 15 and Braydon Hobbs and Jeremy Kendle totaling 10 each.
Ferris State was led by Darien Gay, who totaled 16 points thanks to 4 of 6 3-point shooting. Justin Keenan and Matt DeHart also hit double figures with 15 and 12 points respectively.
NCAA Midwest Regional All-Tournament Team honors were earned by Benedetti, Kenny Brown of FSU, Dowe, Keenan, Sprague and Hobbs earned Most Outstanding Player honors.
The win improves BU to 30-2 and moves them into an Elite Eight matchup with Midwestern State, the No. 6 seed of the South Central Conference, who won 73-66 against Central Oklahoma.
Bellarmine will make its Elite Eight debut on Wednesday in Springfield, Mass.