LOUISVILLE, Ky.-The top-ranked Bellarmine Knights suffered a second straight upset on Thursday night as the visiting Southwest Baptist Bearcats overcame a 12-point halftime deficit to win 79-74 in a Great Lakes Valley Conference game at Knights Hall. The visitors knocked down several clutch baskets in crunch time while the Knights suffered a scoring drought of almost five minutes late in the game to set up the Bearcats' upset victory. While Southwest Baptist put on a dazzling shooting display from 3-point range in the second period, canning eight of 13 treys, that couldn't match Bellarmine's effort in the first half when the Knights drilled eight of 11 from deep and 18 of 24 overall for 75 percent. Both offenses put up impressive numbers. Despite the second half dry spell, Bellarmine finished the night making 56 percent from the field while the Bearcats made 27 of 49 for 55.1 percent. However, Bellarmine Coach said the game was more about defense. 'We shot 56 percent on 19 assists and got beat,' he said. 'If you can't defend, you can't win. We couldn't stop them. Give them credit. We knew it coming in. We had great respect for them.' After falling behind by five points early, the Knights roared back in the first half with stellar shooting while getting stops on defense to build a 17-point lead. However, the Bearcats ended the half on a 5-0 run to go into halftime trailing 47-35. Bellarmine scored the first bucket of the second period, but then went cold and SBU reeled off nine unanswered points to get back in the game at 49-44 with 15:29 remaining. After trading baskets, the Bearcats got a stop then drained a triple to get within two at the 12:36 mark. The Knights seemed to have the weathered the storm as they re-established an eight-point cushion, 62-54, on an baseline jumper with 8:33 on the clock. However, that's when Bellarmine's second half dry spell hit. Over the next 4:48, the Knights missed five shots, committed two turnovers and missed the front end of a one-and-one. By the time ended the drought with a pair of free throws at the 3:45 mark, the Knights had surrendered their lead. After regaining a one-point edge on the Fleming free throws, neither team could pull away with both teams hitting clutch shots down the stretch. The first crucial hit came from SBU's Brady Smith, who corralled an offensive rebound, then got the ball back and pulled the trigger from about 30 feet and found bottom of the bucket to give the visitors a 3-point lead at the 2:07 mark. Bellarmine would not go away, however, drawing even on 3-pointer by with 1:12 to go.
The Bearcats then worked the shot clock before finding Quinn Nelson for kick-back three-pointer with 47 ticks on the clock. The reigning GLVC Player of the Week connected for his sixth triple of the game. Bellarmine misfired on a potential game-tying trey but snared the offensive rebound only to see a second attempt from the beyond the arc also clang off the rim.
The Knights then were forced to foul with 25 seconds to go. Godrey Rolle made one of two from the line for SBU, but Cook hit another big-time three to pull Bellarmine within 75-74 with 17 seconds remaining. Rolle was sent to the free throw line again and converted both. The Knights still had a chance to tie it with another three, but this time Cook missed under heavy SBU pressure. Nelson was fouled on the rebound with just six-tenths of a second on the clock, and he made both to make the final margin 79-74.
Cook led all scorers with a career-high 26 points as he made nine of 13 field goal attempts, including a 3-for-4 performance from beyond the arc. Weyer added 12 for the Knights with Claycomb coming off the bench to drop in 10.
Nelson led four Bearcats in double figures with 24, finishing eight of 12 from the field and canning six of nine triples.
The Knights fall to 14-2 overall and 7-2 in league play. Even with the loss, Bellarmine managed to retain the lead in the GLVC's point rating system. Southwest Baptist improves to 14-3 on the season and matches BU's 7-2 conference mark.
Bellarmine returns to action on Saturday when they host Drury in a 3:15 p.m. game.
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