March 22nd, 2012
Dowe Dials It Up For Knights Over UAH
Dowe's double-double, Kendle's 23 points lead Knights
Facing their most extensive halftime deficit of the season against the most efficient offensive attack they have seen all year, the Bellarmine Knights did not panic; did not falter; did not flinch.
No. Not this group of tested veterans.
In the second half, they defended with a vengeance. They executed with precision. They played championship basketball.
And in turn, a 41-32 halftime shortfall at the hands of the No. 2 ranked University of Alabama-Huntsville was transformed into a resounding 82-73 Bellarmine victory in the quarterfinals of the Division II Elite Eight tournament before a partisan crowd of 4,281 at the Bank of Kentucky Center in Highland Heights, KY.
Quite simply, the Knights experienced an overhaul during the halftime break. They expunged that lackluster early performance like a bad debt. They just wrote it off and came out swinging. First with a flurry of stinging jabs; then with the big, heavy haymakers.
“In all my life, that’s as good a basketball team, as difficult to prepare for that I’ve ever seen,” said Bellarmine coach Scott Davenport in honor of Alabama-Huntsville. “They’re a fabulous basketball team. That being said, I would never count out our guys. Keisten Jones is down. Luke (Sprague) is below 100 percent. Down by nine at halftime. And they mastered playing possession by possession, just staying in the moment.”
The Knights had to play without Jones for the final 31:20, as he was escorted from the court after sustaining a knee injury. Sprague played despite nursing a shoulder stinger and at about 70 percent healthy according to coach Davenport.
Though UAH got a nine-count through the first twenty minutes of action, they were unable to keep the Knights down for the ten-count required of a knockout.
The defending champions wrested control of the game in the first three minutes of the second half with an offensive arsenal that any team in the nation, at any level, would find difficult to overcome.
First possession: a three from junior Chris Dowe. Next possession: a three from the senior Sprague. Next came two free throws from junior guard Jeremy Kendle that he followed with yet another three pointer. Finally, a layup from Dowe.
Three minutes. Five possessions. 13 points. Halftime deficit erased.
“Stops. It all starts with your defense,” stated Davenport. “I thought the tempo in the second half was the key to the game.”
UAH coach Lennie Acuff tried everything to stem the tide, from timeouts to substitutions to changing defenses. Nothing was stopping the Bellarmine attack.
“It was an unbelievable college basketball game,” said Acuff. “We felt like we could play with them, but they’re the best offensive team I’ve ever seen in my 15 years at this level. When they get going, they’re incredible.”
If the game had ended after twenty minutes, Acuff would have been referring to his team as the best offensive team he’d seen at this level. His Chargers shot 13-24 from the field and a perfect 11-11 from the free throw line. They controlled the tempo and dictated the run of play in building that nine point lead.
But it’s a forty minute game. And this Bellarmine team is good. Really good.
“You’ve got to give them credit,” Acuff admitted. “They came out and hit us in the mouth. Their switching (on defense) bothered us. Their three perimeters (guards Braydon Hobbs, Dowe and Kendle) are high Division I players. They’re not low Division I. They’re not mid-Division I. They can play for anybody in America. When they’re rolling, they’re really tough.”
With Dowe recording another double-double (24 points and 12 boards) and Kendle scoring 23 to lead the Knights on the scoreboard, it was Hobbs and his all-around game that provided a big lift for the Knights when they needed it most in less glamorous fashion.
While Hobbs' five points didn’t garner any attention, his uncharacteristic 1-5 shooting did. But he more than made up for those low numbers with seven assists, five steals, two blocked shots and four rebounds.
“My role is to get people the ball,” said Hobbs. “Jeremy and Chris are dynamic scorers. I felt like if we can get them the ball, then they can create for others. I just played defense and assist and that’s really my goal.”
He finished the game with 16 deflections and that drew high praise from his coach.
“He’s too humble,” remarked Davenport. “Any player who has five to seven deflections, that’s a great night’s work. Our goal as a team is to get 38. He had 16. That is unheard of.”
It was a critical block at a critical time that solidified Hobbs as the unsung hero. Up 77-73 with just over a minute left, UAH’s All-American point guard Josh Magette had an open lane to the basket and was looking to cut the lead to two.
But the All-American Hobbs wasn’t going to let it happen. He recognized the play, moved quickly across the lane to help and swatted the ball to his teammate Kendle. This Dikembe Mutombo imitation from Hobbs is becoming familiar as evidenced by his 7 blocks against Kentucky Wesleyan in the Midwest Regional championship game.
“Our guy got rode-up the lane and Magette drove around him,” said Hobbs of the crucial block. “I just came off weak side and made the play. We practice help-side defense all year and I think that’s why we’re successful.”
With Dowe and Kendle providing the scoring punch, Hobbs settled into his all around, playmaking role. But it was clear that Dowe was the difference maker and that UAH had no answer for his potent offensive game.
“Throughout our season we’ve been in the toughest environments,” said Dowe. “Things aren’t always going to go our way. Just buckle down, get stops and that can change everything. Our offense will always take care of itself.”
With a large contingent of Knights fans--at least 3,000 made the trip from Louisville--the atmosphere closely resembled the cozy confines of Knights Hall. And all in attendance received an outstanding show.
“You just saw a magnificent basketball game,” said Davenport. “I don’t care if you go to any level of basketball—in this country or internationally—you see two teams go 35-40 from the free throw line; you see two teams combine for 33 assists. That was an unbelievable performance.”
The 29-3 and No. 4 ranked Knights will face 27-7 University of Montevallo, who defeated Metro St. 67-65 in their quarterfinal game, Thursday evening at 9:30pm in the semifinals. You can listen to the Knights broadcast on 970AM - WGTK with Nick Curran and Mark Bugg. Pre-game show begins at 9:00pm.
- Bellarmine is undefeated, 4-0, in games played at the Bank of Kentucky Center.
- The Knights had four players in double figures including Dowe's 24, Kendle's 23, Richie Phares' 13 and Sprague's 10.
- Bellarmine shot a sizzling 14-20 (70 percent) from the field in the second half and finished the game 26-49 (53.1 percent).
- UAH shot 13-24 in the first half (54.2 percent), but were a leg-weary 12-30 (40 percent) in the second half for a total of 25-54 (46.3 percent).
- The Chargers got 26 points from big man Zane Campbell and 24 points from sharpshooter Jaime Smith. Smith drew shooting fouls on three separate occasions from behind the three point line. At least two of those were Reggie Miller-like flails.
- The Knights had 9 steals and 5 blocked shots comparted to the Chargers 6 steals and 0 blocked shots.
- Bellarmine was outrebounded 30-26, but forced the Chargers into 18 turnovers and converted those into 17 points.
- Jelani Johnson will get the start for Keisten Jones in tomorrow's semifinal game against University of Montevallo.