By Josh Cook
It's rare for a coach to be happy when his team loses. But that was precisely the mood of Bellarmine University men's basketball coach Scott Davenport following his team's 78-74 loss at Drury on Jan. 9.
"That might've been the most upbeat after a loss I've been as a coach," Davenport said. "Because I knew, and our staff knew, that we had our basketball team."
Although the Knights lost that day Davenport was pleased with how his team hung tough against the Panthers despite playing without one starter and one key reserve, and how unselfish they were.
"We kind of redefined ourselves with our 23 assists," Davenport said of his team's distribution in that game.
Bellarmine (20-8) has won 11 of its last 13 games since that loss heading into Saturday night's rematch with 22nd-ranked Drury (23-5) at 9:30 p.m. EST in the semifinals of the Great Lakes Valley Conference Tournament at Springfield, Illinois. Third-ranked Kentucky Wesleyan, the winner of the GLVC East Division and the tournament's top seed, will take on Northern Kentucky, the No. 3 seed from the East, in the other semifinal. The championship game is 4:30 p.m. EST Sunday.
The Knights, who clinched the first back-to-back 20-win seasons in program history with Sunday's 76-60 win over Quincy in the GLVC quarterfinals at Knights Hall, are trying to earn their second straight bid to the NCAA Division II Tournament. Bellarmine has a good chance of earning an invitation because of its No. 6 ranking in the Midwest Region (Drury is the No. 2 team in the region).
The Panthers are led by GLVC Freshman of the Year, guard Alex Hall (17 points per game), who Davenport said has "no limit to his (shooting) range." Hall was a second-team All-GLVC selection, while junior guard Chase Elliott (13.5 ppg) was a third-team pick. Drury ranks fourth nationally in steals per game (11.2) and fifth in free throw percentage (76.5).
"We've got to be strong with the ball," Davenport said. "They're an incredible defensive team, especially guarding their man. We've got to control the three-point shot...and the last game we gave up 14 offensive rebounds, you can't give up extra possessions like that."
The Knights are led by junior guard Jeremy Kendle (17.3 ppg, 5.8 rebounds per game), a second-team All-GLVC pick, as well as a couple of All-GLVC third-team picks - junior guard Justin Benedetti (12.9 ppg) and sophomore guard Braydon Hobbs (11.7 ppg, 5.3 assists per game).
The NCAA Division II Selection Show is 9:30 p.m. Sunday night. If the Knights lose their semifinal game Davenport said there will be a Selection Show party at Shenanigan's Pub in the Highlands.