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Bellarmine uses 56-point second half to outlast Queens

Bellarmine guard Ben Johnson finished with 29 in the Knights' Saturday win at Queens. (Photo: Bellarmine Athletics)

CHARLOTTE – There was a big show outside Queens’ Curry Arena Saturday afternoon. Fans gathered for a tailgate that featured fun, fellowship, and a live DJ as part of the university’s Homecoming festivities.

Inside the arena, Bellarmine had an entertainer putting on his own show.

Redshirt freshman Ben Johnson – who didn’t even start the game for the Knights – finished just two points off a career-high Saturday, tallying 29 points in 24 minutes and helping guide Bellarmine to an 88-84 victory Saturday afternoon.

The decision marked the second game in 48 hours in which the Royals led at the half but could not hold on. Bellarmine (12-15, 7-7 ASUN) turned in a blistering 1.6 points per possession performance in the closing stanza, getting 30 of their 56 second-half points from Johnson and Garrett Tipton.

“Our ball pressure,” Queens coach Grant Leonard matter-of-factly offered as a reason for the second-half outburst by the Knights. “I think we got a little tired and worn down. Our ball pressure wasn’t as elite, so they were able to see some of their passes to their cuts, which led to their having a great second half.”

Queens (16-11, 6-8) took a 38-32 lead to the locker room, following a period in which the Royals put up 1.15 points per trip. Kenny Dye and AJ McKee combined to tally 23 points in the period. Johnson almost beat them both in the first half, putting home 17 of the Knights’ 32 points in the half.

Bellarmine forward Curt Hopf suffered an ankle injury early in the game, falling to the ground after a tipped rebound. Hopf had his ankle heavily taped and did not return. The Hopf injury created opportunities for players on both sides. Forward Langdon Hatton stepped in for Hopf, playing 34 minutes and scoring 14 points to go along with eight boards.

“He got some big-boy rebounds tonight,” Bellarmine coach Scott Davenport told the media after the game.

Queens also saw forwards B.J. McLaurin and Jay’Den Turner step up to seize their opportunities. McLaurin poured in a double-double (15 points, 10 rebounds) and was nearly joined by Turner, who finished with eight points and seven boards.

“I thought we rebounded the ball great. That’s been our separator all year,” Leonard said. “Today, we just weren’t able to get enough stops. B.J. and Jay’Den had a good effort on the glass and did a good job boxing out. I think most of their offensive rebounds were their guards rebounding their own misses.”

Bellarmine outrebounded Queens, 36-32, but the Royals maintained an 11-7 advantage on offensive boards.

The Knights also enjoyed an advantage in the paint, outscoring Queens, 38-32. Leonard was happy with his team’s effort against a particularly physical opponent.

“I think that you can never let them be the more physical team, and I thought we did a good job for large portions of the game of being more physical than they were,” Leonard said. “They got us for certain stretches, too, and that’s their identity – to be ultra-physical on screens and ultra-physical on cuts. I thought our guys did a good job of matching their physicality.”

As good as Johnson was in the first half for the Knights, Tipton ruled the second stanza. The redshirt senior from Columbus stroked 6-of-9 tries in the second half including a pair of triples, producing 18 points in 19 minutes of second-half play.

“Garrett Tipton, in terms of big-shot offense, took the game over," Davenport said. "And he goes to the line with unbelievable confidence."

Johnson’s 29 led Bellarmine and all scorers. The total also represented a career-high against a Division 1 opponent. Johnson hit 11-of-16 shots, including 7-of-9 from distance. Tipton joined Johnson in the 20-point club, finishing with 22 points and five dimes. Hatten rounded out the double-digit scorers with his 14. The Knights shot 53.4 percent (31-for-55) from the deck, knocking down 55 percent (11-of-20) of their tries from beyond the arc.

McKee and Dye continued their outstanding play in the second half, finishing with 24 and 23, respectively. Dye did serious work at the foul line for the Royals, dropping 12-of-13 from the stripe. The game marked McKee’s third-straight game over 20 points. McLaurin added 15 to go with his 10 boards for his first double-double as a Royal. Queens shot 40.3 percent (25-for-62) on the contest, hitting 8-for-29 (27.6 percent) from distance.

Both sides return to conference play Thursday. Bellarmine returns home to square off with North Alabama in a 7:30 local time start. Queens hits the road to Pete Mathews Coliseum in Jacksonville, Ala., to do battle with Jacksonville State. That game is slated to tip at 7:00 (Eastern). Both games will stream via ESPN+.


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