HIGHLAND HEIGHTS, Ky. – No. 2 Bellarmine got a career high 28 points from senior Luke Sprague to earn a hard-fought 86-75 road win against No. 8 Northern Kentucky in the regular season finale for both teams.
The Knights improve their record to 24-2 on the season, which ties last year’s squad for best regular season record in school history. Bellarmine finished the Great Lakes Valley Conference regular season 16-2 to take the league regular season crown as well.
|TOP 25 SCORES|
|No. 2 Bellarmine 86, No. 8 Northern Kentucky 75|
|No. 6 Shaw 64, Saint Augustine 62|
|No. 9 S. Indiana 69, No 19 Ky. Wesleyan 54|
|Ouachita Baptist 80, No. 17 Arkansas Tech 76|
|No. 23 Indianapolis 84, Saint Joseph 71|
Northern Kentucky falls to 21-5, 13-5 GLVC, and the Norse must await late results to find out their seed in the upcoming GLVC tournament.
Of perhaps bigger importance than conference seeding for Bellarmine is the fact that Northern was ranked second behind the Knights in the Midwest Region. With the win tonight, Bellarmine would seem to have the upper hand for a No. 1 seed and the right to host the Midwest Regional. NCAA selections will be announced Sunday, March 4.
Tonight’s game showcased two of the nation’s elite teams, and the action on the floor did not disappoint the 5,249 fans gathered at the Bank of Kentucky Center as both squads exhibited outstanding long-range shooting and athletic, acrobatic play above the rim.
“We had three goals tonight,” said Bellarmine Coach Scott Davenport. “One was to play with great heart. Two was to play with great mental poise, and three was to play with tremendous guts and determination. And although those are all pretty subjective, I think we accomplished all those goals tonight.”
After the Norse opened with a 3-2 lead, Bellarmine reeled off 10 in a row to take a 12-3 lead just 4:29 into the game. Although the Knights would never surrender the lead, Northern made several runs at BU and cut the lead to just two at the 13:22 mark.
Another Bellarmine spurt pushed it out to a double digit lead, and the Knights hung tough to take a 40-29 lead into halftime.
The Norse came in the No. 3 team in the nation in terms of 3-point accuracy but only managed to hit two of 10 in the first half. Meanwhile, the Knights — the No. 2 team in the nation for 3-point accuracy–connected on five of 11 from long range in the opening 20 minutes.
Despite NKU finding the range in the second half (7-10 from beyond the arc), the Norse could get no closer than eight the rest of the way.
“We seemed to have an answer for all of their runs,” said Davenport, “and that answer was great passing. I thought we showed a great ability to attack their defense then make the right pass.”
In setting a new career high, Sprague was nearly perfect. The 6-8 senior made seven of eight field goals and was 3-for-4 from long range. He also connected on 11 of 13 free throws.
Jeremy Kendle also was a major contributor on offense with 20 points, and Chris Dowe led the Knights with a game-high seven rebounds and seven assists. He also tossed in 13 points. Keisten Jones and Braydon Hobbs rounded out the Bellarmine offense with 14 and 11 points respectively.
Northern Kentucky had three double figure scorers led by DeAndre Nealy and Jon Van Hoose with 19 apiece. Eshaunte Jones added 18 points, with 15 of those coming in the second period.