BY QUIN WELCH
To be the best, you have to compete against the best.
That’s the mantra that Coach Scott Davenport and his team are living by this November. The Knights have now played three Division I opponents: Louisville, Cincinnati and most recently, Indiana.
While Bellarmine failed to win any of these exhibition games – they were never expected to do so – they gained something that will be far more valuable to their season: experience.
“I’m the luckiest coach in the world to have three institutions like Louisville, Cincinnati and Indiana allow us to play in these tremendous venues,” Davenport said. “But I know this, this made our basketball team better.”
Bellarmine doesn’t sign up to play teams like the Cardinals, the Bearcats or the Hoosiers so it can go lose by 20 and go home. The Knights play these games so they can get better. While time will tell if that was actually the case, the Knights showed plenty of positive signs throughout their three-game preseason. This culminated in a special night for the Knights at Assembly Hall.
Bellarmine had three players score in double figures against the Hoosiers, led by senior forward George Suggs. After the Knights had a rough first half, Suggs hit three 3-pointers in a row in less than a minute and a half to light some fire under the Knights offensively. The St. Louis native led the Knights in scoring, putting up 17 for the night and continued his hot streak from three, shooting 4 of 8 from behind the arc for the game. Suggs finished the preseason hitting 50 percent of his 3-pointers.
Suggs said he thought playing against Indiana helped Bellarmine prepare for important games for later in the season.
“I think we kind of noticed guys were a little nervous coming out, and that’s a great experience for us ‘cause down the road we’re gonna play in big games under big lights,” Suggs said. “You know, it’s a good experience for us going forward.”
While Josh Derksen, who was averaging 15 points through the Knights’ first two exhibitions, only scored four for the night, junior forward Rusty Troutman continued his consistent play, scoring 16 points and grabbing seven rebounds. Yasin Kolo, the Hartford transfer, added 12 points and brought down four rebounds.
The Hoosiers said they thought their opponents performed well in their preseason finale. Indiana forward Troy Williams acknowledged Bellarmine leading Indiana in scoring in the second half.
“We got out-scored in the second half by four, 42-38,” Williams said.
Point guard Yogi Ferrell, who led all scorers with 21, said Suggs was a huge part of the Knights’ comeback in the second half.
“They screened very well especially for No. 4 (Suggs) to get open and that’s what hurt us,” Ferrell said.
This group of Knights has the potential to do something very special in 2015-16 if they can continue to set screens for Suggs, if Derksen can get back on track after suffering an ankle injury during the IU game, if Troutman can continue to do it all, and if Kolo can continue to build his confidence. If the Knights can do all of those things (yes, that’s a lot of ifs) they can be very, very good.