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Bellarmine basketball ‘crushed’ over lack of postseason opportunities following conference title

Two Evansville natives played on Knights’ championship-winning team
Bellarmine basketball ‘crushed’ over lack of postseason opportunities following conference title
Published: Mar. 11, 2022 at 11:09 PM CST
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EVANSVILLE, Ind. (WFIE) - In only its second season competing at the NCAA Division I level, the Bellarmine men’s basketball program clinched the Atlantic Sun Conference title earlier this week. But due to NCAA rulings, that’s as far as the Knights can go.

Bellarmine (20-13) accomplished the unimaginable, earning the moniker of conference champions after winning 77–72 over Jacksonville in the ASUN tournament final on Tuesday night.

Two Evansville natives were a part of that winning team.

“That was my biggest goal coming into the year – win the conference championship,” Bellarmine senior guard Dylan Penn said. “You come to a school that’s known for winning and then you get moved up from the Division II to Division I level, and be able to sustain that success, it was something incredible.”

Growing up in the basketball-rich Evansville community, the Memorial High School graduates were built for this moment.

“Unreal event that not many people get to experience, especially a team like us that’s new to a Division I conference at a whole new level,” Bellarmine junior forward Sam DeVault said. “Being able to win that, that means a lot to the both of us.”

Under normal circumstances, the conference tournament champion receives an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament. However, NCAA rules prohibit Bellarmine from competing either in the Big Dance or the NIT, since the Knights are only in their second of a four-year transitional period.

“We knew we weren’t going to get into the national tournament, because the rule’s the rule,” Penn said. “We disagree with the rule, but the rule’s been in place and we understood the rule going in. But a lot of us believed we’d still be able to compete in the NIT, and when we found out we weren’t able to compete in that – that’s when a lot of us were crushed.”

Despite the shortened season, both said they are proud to be part of the winning Bellarmine culture.

“We put all the time and work in that every other program does, we were able to come away with a conference tournament championship,” Penn said. “You gotta keep your head up, stay positive and embrace what we’ve done.”

“At the end of the day, it’s crushing,” DeVault said. “But that didn’t stop us from achieving our goal.”

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