BY QUIN WELCH, Sports Editor
No one expected Bellarmine to win Sunday afternoon in the KFC Yum! Center, but a few may have believed the Knights could give the Louisville Cardinals a run for their money, which they did.
Louisville defeated Bellarmine 71-55 in a game Bellarmine can be proud of. Bellarmine coach Scotty Davenport said playing against the Division I crosstown Cardinals was great for his team.
“I asked our guys, ‘Man, are we better than we were at 1:30?’ And to a man, yes, absolutely,” Davenport said.
The Knights, who shot only 32 percent from the floor for the game as a team, leaned on juniors Josh Derksen and Rusty Troutman for scoring. Derksen led all scorers with 20, adding three rebounds. Troutman scored 11 and added seven rebounds. Senior George Suggs matched Troutman’s 11 points and grabbed four rebounds.
Troutman said he believed the Knights’ offense was better than Louisville’s but that the Cardinals’ athleticism made it difficult for Bellarmine to move the ball around the floor.
“They’re huge,” Troutman said. “They’re so much more athletic and just big. It’s hard to predict that in practice. Our offense, I think, is better than theirs, they just, they have athletes. They have guys that rebound the ball.”
Davenport echoed Troutman’s sentiments about the lengthy Cards.
“You’ve got to give them credit because we can’t simulate their length and their physical strength in practice. You can’t do that,” Davenport said.
While Louisville as a team is taller and bigger, the Knights fared relatively well against UofL on the boards, losing the rebounding battle by just five, 36-41.
Bellarmine, which last year shot 76.4 percent from the free throw line and ranked 12th in Division II, went 18 for 28 for 64.3 percent for this game. Davenport complimented Louisville’s ability to “defend the fee throw line.”
“He’s (Rick Pitino) in the Hall of Fame for a reason. When you can defend the free throw line that good you oughta be there,” Davenport joked.
Troutman said he believed the Knights, who trailed the Cardinals by only six at halftime, could have continued to pressure Louisville if Bellarmine had made its free throws.
“If we make our free throws, I mean, we’re right in it at halftime, tied up,” Troutman said.
Louisville coach Rick Pitino was complimentary of the Knights and said he believes Bellarmine can return to the Final Four for a second straight year.
“I thought this would be a very close game because they’re a veteran team and we’re an inexperienced team,” Pitino said. “I think they’re going to have a great shot at being a Final Four team again.”
Davenport said he was encouraged with what he saw from Hartford transfer Yasin Kolo, who logged eight points and two rebounds in his Bellarmine debut.
“I think he learned every second. You know, when he redshirted last year, it’s just not the same. You know you’re not going to play, and it’s just not the same,” Davenport said. “One thing that he’s got going for him, he cares a tremendous amount, and caring is a great skill. It’s a great talent. We’re never going to apologize for caring.”
The Knights travel to Cincinnati to play the Cincinnati Bearcats on Saturday for the second of their three exhibitions. They will then play the Indiana Hoosiers at Assembly Hall on Nov. 9 before opening the regular season against Northwood on Nov. 14 at Knights Hall.