Bellarmine holds off Lewis' late rally
Knights get out to 20-point lead, survive late charge from Flyers
LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- Survive and advance is the motto of many college basketball teams in March, and it is an apt description of Bellarmine's 66-59 victory against Lewis in the opening round of the NCAA tournament on Saturday night in Knights Hall.
After sprinting out to a lead as large as 20, the Knights were challenged by the Flyers as they closed to within five points before Bellarmine finished strong to earn the victory with Chris Dowe providing the punctuation mark at the game's end with a thunderous dunk in the waning moments.
The story of the game for Bellarmine, however, was Luke Sprague. The 6-8 senior had a spectacular first half before colliding with Lewis' Marty Strus toward the end of the first period and not returning to action.
Sprague netted 19 first-half points on perfect shooting, going 7-for-7 from the field including 5-of-5 from long range. As time wound down on the shot clock, Sprague just missed getting off a trey before time expired and Strus tumbled into the Bellarmine big man with 1:28 remaining in the first half.
The injury was described as a stinger, and Sprague said in the postgame press conference that his return may be as early as tomorrow.
“The doctors said that a lot of times this type of injury only lasts 24 hours,” Sprague said.
Sprague's sharp-shooting helped stake the Knights to a 35-22 halftime advantage, and the Knights extended that lead to 57-37 with 10 minutes left in the game. Lewis took advantage of multiple Bellarmine turnovers and opportune shooting to climb back into the game before Bellarmine scored the contest's final four points for the 9-point victory.
Bellarmine's Jeremy Kendle led all scorers with 23 points, and Sprague and Dowe also hit double figures with 19 and 13 respectively.
Lewis placed just two players in double figures as Ryan Jackson and Julian Lewis shared team-high honors with 11.
After shooting a torrid 58.3 percent in the first half, the Knights cooled in the second half to finish at 47.9 percent for the game.