SPRINGFIELD, Mo. – No. 3-seed Bellarmine used an 18-2 run to start the second half and rolled to a 78-55 win against second-seeded Southern Indiana in an NCAA Division II Midwest Regional semifinal on Sunday at the O’Reilly Center.
With the win, the Knights (24-7) advanced to Tuesday’s regional championship game against the winner of Sunday’s second semifinal, which features Drury and Michigan Tech. It will be the third consecutive round of 16 appearance for Bellarmine, and the fourth in five seasons.
“This game was a credit to us going through the wars of GLVC play,” Bellarmine head coach Scott Davenport said. “Our division, with Southern Indiana, Indianapolis, Kentucky Wesleyan and Lewis, really prepares you for postseason games. It definitely helped us [Sunday].”
The second half-opening spurt more than doubled Bellarmine’s 15-point advantage at the break, and included two three-point field goals by Jelani Johnson as well as long-range 3-pointers from Vance Hall and Keisten Jones. Hall led the team in scoring for the game with 16 points off 6-for-8 shooting from the field.
“Our ball movement was incredible,” Hall said. “We were getting open shots from good passes and everyone was contributing to get better shots.”
As a team, Bellarmine shot 58.5 percent (31 of 53) from the field, and connected on 11 of 25 3-point opportunities. The BU defense held USI to 40.8 shooting and forced 16 turnovers. The Knights swiped away seven steals, including a game-high four by Johnson, which tied a career-high.
“The enthusiasm from our bench was incredibly special, and it was all established on the defensive end of court,” Davenport said.
“[Bellarmine's] defense was suffocating,” Southern Indiana head coach Rodney Watson said. “It will give them a chance to go deep in this tournament.”
Jones contributed 14 points off 6 of 10 shooting, and was joined in double-figures scoring by Ryan Burton and Chris Dowe (12 apiece). Dowe surpassed the 1,700-point mark, which he was one point shy of coming into the game.
Keith DeWitt singlehandedly kept Southern Indiana (23-8) within striking distance throughout the opening stanza. DeWitt, a senior center, scored the Screaming Eagles’ first 14 points of the contest, and finished with game-highs 24 points and seven rebounds.
Bellarmine now sits one win away from a third consecutive Midwest Regional championship and an opportunity to return to Louisville and historic Freedom Hall for the quarterfinals and semifinals on March 28 and 30.
“Our guys are very aware of it,” Davenport said. “Freedom Hall is a very special place and has a great deal of tradition. We will be ready for Tuesday night.”