Dalton McGlone, Staff Writer
Even on Valentine’s Day, the Bellarmine women’s basketball didn’t show its opponent any love. The Knights scored efficiently and played hard-nosed defense to beat the University of Illinois-Springfield (UIS) 75-54 Thursday.
The Knights have won four of their last five games and are on a three-game home winning streak. Bellarmine improved to 12-9 on the season (6-7 Great Lakes Valley Conference) and UIS fell to 7-15 (4-10 GLVC).
The Knights got off to a slow start and only scored 10 points in the first quarter. Despite seeing a lot of good looks at the rim, they just couldn’t get shots to fall. Bellarmine trailed at the end of the first quarter.
In the second quarter, Bellarmine found success in the post and kept powering it inside. Senior center Liza Tibbs led the way, scoring 11 of her 16 points in the second quarter.
“I didn’t have a clear advantage tonight,” Tibbs said. “Their post players were pretty good. But once I started hitting (shots), I started feeling confident and kept going at it.”
The Knights played with a surge of energy. They grabbed one offensive rebound after another on their way to scoring a total of 16 second-chance points.
“I told them to keep going inside,” Bellarmine head coach Chancellor Dugan said. “Our shot will fall when we go inside-out. Our press was putting pressure on them, and I don’t think they had the freshness in the second half to play defense on us. We got some easy looks because of it.”
Bellarmine’s offense was boosted by its ability to take care of the ball. The Knights average nearly 19 turnovers per game, but finished Thursday’s game with 12.
Along with great offensive post-play, the Knights played an exciting brand of defense. It’s common to see full-court pressure from this team, forcing 19 UIS turnovers, three more than the Prairie Stars average on the season.
Even when UIS was able to get the ball inside, Bellarmine didn’t make scoring easy as the Knights contested nearly every shot at the rim. UIS was able to go on a run in the second half to cut the Bellarmine lead down to nine, but Bellarmine responded with a run of its own to pull away and put the game out of reach.
UIS head coach Mark Kost said the team squandered its chance at making a comeback.
“We cut the lead to nine. Then we let them go on a 14- or 15-0 run,” Kost said.
“(Cutting a lead) is the point where you say, ‘Alright we’re back in this thing.’ But we did the complete opposite. We just fell apart.”
Bellarmine will look to continue the momentum at home against McKendree University Saturday at 1 p.m. McKendree is 12-11 on the season (6-8 GLVC) and has lost three of its last five games.