By THE HERALD-WHIG
LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- Marty Bell figures his Quincy University men's basketball team got to see the best the Great Lakes Valley Conference has to offer Thursday night.
If that's truly the case, the Hawks learned they can hang with the league's frontrunners.
QU led Bellarmine, ranked No. 4 in NCAA Division II, by four points at halftime and by as many as five points early in the second half before Bellarmine closed on a 39-19 run en route to a 65-50 win at Knights Hall.
"We played them right to the wire and competed in every possession," Bell, QU's coach, said during a postgame interview with ESPN 1440. "(It was QU's) first conference game on the road against probably the best team in the conference, certainly in that (East) Division."
Chris Babbitt led QU (6-4, 1-1 GLVC) with 14 points and eight rebounds. He was the Hawks' only player in double figures.
Bellarmine (9-0, 1-0) came into the contest shooting 40 percent from 3-point range, but it missed its first seven attempts from beyond the arc.
Max Clemons made the Knights' first 3-pointer with 16 minutes, 52 seconds remaining in the second half to kick-start Bellarmine's finishing surge.
The Knights took their first lead of the second half when Chris Dowe made a jumper with 14:22 remaining to put Bellarmine ahead 35-33, and the Knights never trailed again.
That basket by Dowe started a stretch in which he made eight of his final 10 shots, including free-throw attempts. He finished with 19 points and a game-high six assists. Dowe, a senior guard, was a second-team GLVC selection last season.
"That's what you get from a senior," said Bell, whose team plays 3:15 p.m. Saturday at McKendree.
Dowe looked to take advantage of mismatches.
"I told Chris, ‘When I have a big guy on me and they're switching, I'm going to come up and set a screen for you every time,' and that's what we did," Bellarmine sophomore forward Jake Thelen said during a postgame interview with WFIA 94.7 FM. "He was getting to the bucket and making big-time shots."
Thelen scored a game-high 22 points. He was 6 of 8 from the field and 10 of 12 from the line.
"It's hard to guard him while he's shooting free throws," Bell said.
Free throws were a big factor in Bellarmine's win.
Bellarmine made 21 of 28 free throws, while QU connected on 8 of 9 attempts. The Hawks came into the game averaging 24.1 free-throw attempts per game, which ranked third in the GLVC.
QU made just 33.3 percent of its field-goal attempts, including 13.3 percent from 3-point range. Bellarmine also outrebounded QU 43-25.
In QU's last game, a 93-58 win over Robert Morris-Springfield on Sunday, the Hawks had a 40-17 rebounding advantage.
"Last game, they were plus-23 on the boards, so we made it a big emphasis for us to rebound big time in this game," said Thelen, who led Bellarmine with 10 rebounds.