SPRINGFIELD, Mo. -- In a rare fourth meeting with its archrival this season, No. 12 Indianapolis (24-4) bested Bellarmine 80-75 in the opening round of the NCAA Division II Midwest Regional on Saturday. Senior Reece Cheatham scored 15 of his team-high 18 points in the second half to help hold off the Knights (23-8).
UIndy advances to the second round of the regional for just the third time in program history. The Hounds will face sixth-seeded Michigan Tech (23-7) on Sunday.
In the teams' third match-up in the past three weeks, UIndy forced 18 Bellarmine turnovers and got to the foul line twice as much as the Knights. All five UIndy starters finished in double figures.
Bellarmine came into the game leading the nation in team field goal percentage (.530), but UIndy held the Knights to just 43 percent shooting after the break to help slow down a normally-efficient offensive attack.
"If you think about the [GLVC] tournament game [last week], Bellarmine shot more than 60 percent from the field, and although they shot 60 percent at the half [Saturday], we came out in the second half and didn't let it rattle us."
"[Our defense] enabled us to get back to our style of play. We ran, we put pressure on those guys especially late at the end of the shot clock."
After battling to a 33-32 score at the half, Bellarmine turned a one-point deficit into a four-point advantage, earning its largest lead of the game at 39-35. But senior Reece Cheatham responded with back-to-back 3-pointers to give the lead back to the Hounds. With every game from here on out possibly his last, Cheatham poured in 15 second-half points, hitting four treys in the final 16 minutes.
"I wanted to make sure I continued to stay a threat," Cheatham said. "I wanted to keep them honest. I saw during the game they started to get relaxed on defense on my end. Once I saw that I picked it out, and it was my time to go."
Later, the Hounds looked to pull away when Joe Lawson's steal and coast-to-coast finish gave UIndy a game-high seven-point advantage. However, despite having a teammate directly underneath him immediately following his dunk, Lawson was whistled for a technical foul for hanging on the rim.
BU senior Vance Hall sank the ensuing free throws, then followed shortly with a 3-pointer to quickly cut it to a deuce, setting up a gritty finish by both teams.
The Knights would get as close as one the rest of the way but never managed to tie it or take the lead. In fact, UIndy overcame seven missed free throws in the final three minutes and still maintained the edge.
With under a minute to go, Hall drained his fifth triple of the day to make it 73-70 UIndy, but Tyrae Robinson, who finished the game 8-for-8 from the line, knocked down six free throws in the final 40 seconds to ensure the win. His two freebies with 7.8 made it a two-possession game to all but ice it.
Lawson finished with 16 points and eight rebounds; Robinson managed 14 points and seven assists; Brennan McElroy had 12 points and nine boards; and Jordan Loyd, making his first start as a Hound, added 11 points and six rebounds, five of which were offensive.