Friday, March 27, 2015

Late Shot Ends Bellarmine's Incredible Season in National Semifinals

Florida Southern 79
Bellarmine 76

Final from Evansville, Indiana

NCAA DII Tournament - Semifinals

Game recap by BU:

EVANSVILLE, Ind. — A season of history, a season with titles, a season where indelible memories were created and greatness was achieved, ended in heartbreaking fashion for the Bellarmine University men's basketball team on Thursday night in the Final Four of the Division II NCAA Tournament.

A spirited comeback in front of a raucous pro-Knights crowd gave way to undoubtedly the tensest final minutes that third-ranked Bellarmine and top-ranked Florida Southern had been involved in this season. In the end, a terrific shot decided the instant classic. Unfortunately for the Knights, it was Kevin Capers that made it.

The consensus All-American, who would have been on any credible shortlist for national Player of the Year, sank a highly contested 3-pointer with 8 seconds remaining to lift the Moccasins to a wrenching 79-76 victory over the Knights at the Ford Center.

The loss ended a sublime season and a dazzling run for Bellarmine through the NCAA Tournament. At 31-4, the Knights finished with the second-most victories in school history. They were regular-season champions of the East Division of the Great Lakes Valley Conference and the top-seeded team in both the conference tournament and the Midwest Regional, the latter of which they won in dominant fashion.

"My feelings toward this basketball team, what they accomplished, the way they represented the university, their city and their families, I don't feel one bit differently about these young men than if we had won the game by three points," BU Coach Scott Davenport said. "When you ask a player to do the best they can do mentally and physically — and they do that — that team may not have a trophy but they are champions. They had the hearts of champions and work ethic of champions."

In the first half, Florida Southern (35-1) used a barrage of 3-pointers to build an 18-point advantage, but Bellarmine remain composed and surged back to within 40-36 at halftime. The second half was a nip-and-tuck affair, with the Knights overtaking the Moccasins and holding a 76-72 lead with 2:39 left on a layup by senior forward Jake Thelen.

Florida Southern's Stephen Battle responded with a bucket, and the Moccasins got the ball back when Bellarmine was whistled for a controversial offensive foul, one of the many disputed calls from both benches in a game which saw an interminable delay in the second half when the Knights had momentum to figure out if FSU's Bubby Johnson had four or five fouls.

Although Capers had been relatively quiet for most of the contest, he drained a tying jumper with 1:46 left that marked the seventh tie of the game. When the Moccasins came up with a steal with 38 seconds left, Capers again had the ball in his hands after a timeout.

Capers began driving right but, in the postgame news conference, said he noticed Thelen awaiting him near the basket. The senior guard opted to step back and attempt a heavily guarded 3-pointer from the right wing. Much to the dismay of the Knights, he was on the money.

"They just made a great play," Davenport said. "We defended arguably the best player in America, and he hit a big-time shot. The defense was great."

Complete Recap

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