An efficient offensive outing by No. 1 Bellarmine proved too much to overcome, and Kentucky Wesleyan fell 83-57 at the Sportscenter on Wednesday night.
The Knights (3-0) started the night hitting 12 of their first 14 shots, and the Panthers (1-1) fell in an early hole. Bellarmine stretched the lead to as many as 16 points before KWC was able to make a run.
Some defensive stops helped the Panthers close the gap, and a 3-pointer by Erik Bell with 3:26 to go in the half cut the deficit to 7 points. It was the closest KWC was able to get the rest of the game.
Head coach Drew Cooper said they couldn’t get in a rhythm on offense, and it wasn’t something they could afford against a quality opponent.
“We just couldn’t get anything going offensively,” he said. “When you don’t resist offensively, a team like Bellarmine — their confidence skyrockets. If you’re not hitting back on the offensive side of the ball, what happened tonight is going to happen.”
Bellarmine started the second half with a 44-33 lead, and it only took a few minutes to go up by 18 points. The teams largely traded baskets for the next 10 minutes, and a 3-pointer by Adam Goetz left KWC trailing 66-51.
From there, the Knights closed on a 17-6 run over the final 6:37 to come away with a big win.
Cooper said a big factor was the Panthers weren’t able to win 50-50 balls and lost the rebounding battle. He said Bellarmine wasn’t physically overwhelming, but they were playing with more confidence.
“When things are clicking offensively, as it is most of the time with Bellarmine, it’s much easier to affect the game in the paint when it comes to 50-50 scrums and rebounding the basketball,” he said. “We had guys that were a little frustrated offensively, so they didn’t affect the game in any other way. That’s something we’ll talk about.”
Bell led the scoring effort for KWC, finishing with 13 points. Goetz added 11, and Tyler Bezold had 10 — all of which came in the first half. Cameron Cartwright led with four assists, and Den Mayot had a team-high four rebounds.
The Panthers play again today in their final exhibition game, as they travel to Evansville (0-2) for a 6 p.m. game at the Ford Center.