Defense key for Bellarmine
Assists get attention, but coach proud of Knights' ability to stop
SPRINGFIELD, Mass. -- Scott Davenport has been asked a lot about the way his Bellarmine basketball team passes the basketball. Its patience on offense and willingness to work for the best possible shot has allowed the Knights to rack up 557 assists.
But the head coach of the second-ranked Knights (30-2) said his team’s ability to play good defense as a unit is what has helped propel them to the NCAA Division II Elite Eight this week.
“Everyone comments on our passing, but I like the way we play defense together,” Davenport said. “We are not an intimidating team when we step off the bus, so it is very important that we not only pass well, but that we play great defense.”
The Knights are only giving up 69.9 points per outing, but let’s go back to the passing for a moment. Two players on the team have more than 100 assists on the season, led by the effort of junior guard Braydon Hobbs. Hobbs has 213 assists while senior All-American guard Jeremy Kendle has dished out 114 assists.
Four other players on the team have at least 30 assists for the Knights, who have won their last six games and will open play against unranked Midwestern State (25-8) at noon Wednesday in a national quarterfinal at the MassMutual Center.
“We have great teamwork and we work hard at finishing possessions,” Davenport said. “I think we do a good job of running our offense, but at the same time, we have also focused on playing great defense and limiting the possessions of the other team.”
Kendle is clicking for 16.8 points per game and leads the Knights in scoring. Sophomore guard Chris Dowe is averaging 13.3 points per outing and senior guard Justin Benedetti is averaging 13 ppg. Hobbs is also scoring in double figures, pumping in 12 points per outing.
The Knights are pouring in 84.1 ppg and are shooting 52.3 percent from the field. They are holding opponents to 44.4 percent shooting from the field.
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“Our young men deserve so much credit for the way they have played,” Davenport said. “They play in a tough conference and a tough region (Midwest), and they have gotten here by doing things the right way. We have to be ready to play our best basketball this week.”
Davenport is counting on the Knights’ rugged schedule to pay off this week. The Knights, who were ranked No. 1 in the country at one point this season, have five seniors on the roster who have played in a lot of big games during their careers, including a memorable Sweet 16 showdown against Findlay two years ago.
The Knights lost 89-86 in overtime to the eventual national champion but are finally getting their shot at playing for a national title.
“Our guys have played on grand stages,” Davenport said. “We beat Xavier this year and have played in Freedom Hall three times. We can draw from that experience and we know that if we are prepared to play, we will have a chance to be successful.”