LEBANON — McKendree University spotted the Bellarmine Knights a big early lead Monday that proved insurmountable.
The Knights, ranked 12th in the Division II poll, roared to a 14-0 advantage that springboarded them to a 71-56 victory over the Bearcats in a Great Lakes Valley Conference game.
Juniors Vance Hall and Keisten Jones scored 14 points apiece to power Bellarmine (13-2 overall, 5-2 GLVC). Sophomore Jake Thelan added 13 points and senior Chris Dowe had 10.
"The hardest thing in college athletics is winning on the road, so I'm proud of our guys," Knights coach Scott Davenport said. "We're going to get back (to Louisville, Ky.) around 3, 4 in the morning and then have to leave Wednesday night to go back on the road.
"But with only two seniors, this was a great effort for us, holding a team that averages 70 (points) a game to 56. They're very tough because they shoot the 3 ball at all five spots."
Foul trouble on sophomore Mike DiGregorio and freshman Matt Murphy hurt the Bearcats (7-10, 1-6), who dropped their fifth straight. Both players scored just three points.
"They came out with that 14-0 run and me and 'Murph' got two fouls early and had to sit out," said DiGregorio, who played 18 minutes. "It was tough for us to get back in it. But the reserves did a great job and the team did a great job considering what we have. We don't really have much size or depth."
Senior John Steppe and junior Clinton Happe led all scorers with 21 points for McKendree. Freshman Matt DeLuka was the Bearcats' next-highest scorer with five points.
"They're great players on anybody's team in this league --and this is the best (Division II) leage in this country, no doubt," Davenport said of Steppe and Happe. "They are scoring machines, and we knew that coming in."
After falling behind 14-0, Happe finally got the Bearcats on the board with a 3-pointer at the 13-minute mark.
McKendree twice cut its deficit to five points in the first half, but Bellarmine re-established control with three consecutive baskets to make it 26-15. The Knights' lead at halftime was 30-20.
"They hit some tough shots," DiGregorio said of Bellarmine's fast start. "We missed a couple of our first shots and it kind of snowballed from there."
The Bearcats got within 30-23 on Murphy's three-point play to open the second half, but they were no closer. Bellarmine built a 23-point gap on two free throws by freshman George Suggs with 12:52 remaining in the game.
"Their reputation coming in, you think about that," McKendree coach Harry Statham said. "We try to be positive about it, but I felt we were tight. We didn't shoot it very well and didn't get going for a long time. And early fouls hurt us.
"We didn't really get on a roll. We kept chipping away, but we couldn't get a sustained drive going for any length of time."
DiGregorio said the Bearcats will keep battling.
"That's one of the things Coach talked about in the locker room," DiGregorio said. "Obviously, we're not the favorites in any game we're going into, but anything can happen on any given night. The most important thing, regardless if we win or lose, we want to play hard until the buzzer sounds."
Bellarmine 89, McKendree 62
The Knights opened the second half with a 22-8 run and steadily pulled away in the women's game, handing the Bearcats their seventh consecutive loss.
Bellarmine (14-4, 4-3), which led just 37-34 at halftime, shot 57 percent (35-for-61) and sank 10 3-pointers.
Four players reached double figures for Bellarmine, led by senior Chelsea Hawkins with 12 points. Seniors Kylie Brady and Betsy Goodin had 11 apiece, and junior Kylee Hamilton had 10.
Junior Brittany Willis led the Bearcats (5-10, 0-7) with 21 points. Sophomore Caty Ponce, of Edwardsville, had 17 points and three 3-pointers, while senior Shelby Woelful, of Jerseyville, and freshman Liz Gilman each had 10.
The 89 points allowed were a season-high in GLVC play for McKendree, which shot 38 percent (21-for-56) and was outrebonded 37-25. The Bearcats were 15-for-18 from the line and had 14 steals, including five by Gilman and four by senior Leann Voss, of Breese.
Bellarmine's bench outscored McKendree's 54-2.
Contact reporter David Wilhelm at firstname.lastname@example.org or 239-2665.