BU
Phares

LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- No. 4 Bellarmine rolled into the finals of the NCAA Midwest Regional final with an 86-63 wire-to-wire victory against No. 25 Findlay on Sunday night before a packed Knights Hall crowd.

Playing without the services of Luke Sprague, who was injured in Saturday's game against Lewis, the Knights called on Richie Phares and the 6-8 sophomore delivered with 13 points on 6-of-7 shooting. Fellow sophomore Keisten Jones also helped fill in for Sprague by tying a career high for rebounds with eight and enjoying a perfect 8-for-8 night from the field to lead Bellarmine with 20 points.

The Knights operated as a well-oiled machine against the Oilers shooting 57 percent for the game, and Bellarmine's sharp passing led to 19 assists on 32 made baskets. The Knights also held a 36-29 rebounding advantage.

Bellarmine never trailed in the contest as Jeremy Kendle started the game's scoring with a mid-range jumper just 20 seconds into the game. The closest the Oilers could get was 11-10 at the 12:11 mark of the first half. From that point on, the Knights just kept extending its lead, pushing the margin as high as 24 before a late Findlay lay-up cut it to 45-23 at the break.

Following halftime, the Bellarmine machine sputtered in the opening minutes as Findlay scored the first seven points of the second half. Shortly after a Bellarmine timeout, the Knights kicked their play back into high gear and raced out to a 30-point lead with 7:21 remaining. From that point, the Knights essentially coasted the rest of the way and settled for the 23-point win.

“The game essentially speaks for itself,” Bellarmine coach Scott Davenport said. “Everybody gave a tremendous effort.” “I usually take time to thank the people of this community for embracing this team, but I want to thank our players. They've earned it.”

Findlay's Kyle Caiola led all scorers with 26, but Bellarmine had outstanding performances from top to bottom. In addition to the efforts turned in by Jones and Phares, Chris Dowe also had a big game, falling just three rebounds shy of a triple-double. The junior dished out a career-high 10 assists, scored 16 points and hauled in seven rebounds.

All five starters scored in double figures as Kendle poured in 15, and Braydon Hobbs collected 12 points on four 3-pointers, most from well beyond the arc.

Bellarmine also turned in a stellar performance defensively, holding the Oilers to just 40 percent shooting and causing 16 turnovers.  The Knights also collected five blocked shots on the night.