Bellarmine edged past the Northern Kentucky University men’s basketball team 74-69 on Jan. 23 despite a number of Norse comebacks throughout the second half.
Senior center David Palmer led the Norse with a double-double, tallying 15 points and grabbing 12 boards. Senior guard Scott Bibbins and junior guard Dennis Gagai finished with 11 points each and Corey Sorrell and Chris Knight both added 10 points of their own.
The Knights jumped out to an 8-0 run before Gagai put the Black and Gold on the board with a pair of free throws. Two early fouls on David Palmer sent him to the bench within the first few minutes, making him a non-factor for a majority of the first half. Bellarmine took advantage of Palmer’s absence shooting 60 percent from the field and connecting on 50 percent of their three-pointers in the first half.
The Norse, on the other hand, couldn’t seem to buy a bucket — shooting 20 percent from three and 39 percent from the field. Free throws played a strong role in keeping the game relatively close in the first half for the Norse. NKU shot 8-9 from the line bringing them within 10, 38-28, at halftime.
“We let them shoot and we gave them too many baskets,” coach Dave Bezold said. “We kept battling back but we just couldn’t take the lead. It didn’t help that Palmer had to sit the bench a lot of the first half.”
The Norse didn’t back down quietly or without a fight. Although there were no lead changes throughout the game, NKU came to within four, three, and two on count- less occasions. But as hard as NKU fought to take the lead, Bellarmine fought equally hard to sustain it. The Norse’s shooting seemed to improve in the second half, increasing both their field goal percentage and three-point percentage by 17 percent.
However, the foul trouble that plagued Palmer in the first half didn’t disappear in the second half as he picked up his third foul in the opening minute. The Norse maintained their composure, though, and put together a 11-2 run to bring them within one. The Knights responded with two quick baskets, and that type of play seemed to be the theme of the game: NKU would go on a spurt, but Bellarmine would always return the favor sooner than later.
The Knights’ Jeremy Kendle led Bellarmine with a near triple-double, posting 21 points, seven rebounds and six assists, and sinking 13 of his 16 free throw attempts. The consistent shooting didn’t stop there for Bellarmine — Justin Benedetti shot a perfect 3-3 from behind the arc and finished with 17 points.
This loss brings the Norse to 10-9 overall and 3-7 in the Great Lakes Valley Conference, placing them fifth in the GLVC East Division. After experiencing a four-game losing streak earlier this month, the Norse rebounded with wins against Maryville 86-79 on Jan. 18 and an impressive win against no. 13 Kentucky Wesleyan 67-62 on Jan. 21.
Despite Saturday’s loss, coach Bezold thinks that things are looking up.
“I know we’re moving forward,” Bezold said. “We need to get better and we’ll get back in the gym and go at it. This season is going fast, but we’ll catch up with it.”
The Norse look to get things back on track against Illinois-Springfield on Jan. 28 — the first of a two-game road trip for NKU.
Story by Drew Laskey