NCAA Football

Bellarmine Surprises Louisville When Kenny Payne’s Debut Ends With City Showdown Defeat

NCAA Basketball: Bellarmine in Louisville
USA TODAY

Kenny Payne’s tenure in Louisville began painfully Wednesday night when the Cardinals lost a thriller 67-66 to opponent Bellarmine. Louisville recovered from a 67-55 deficit in the final five minutes to score the game’s final 11 points, but was left empty on its final three possessions as the Knights escaped with an impressive victory.

Trained by former Louisville longtime assistant coach Scotty Davenport, Bellarmine is starting its third season at the Division I level and plays its home games at Freedom Hall, which is Louisville’s former arena. With the program ineligible for the NCAA Tournament until 2025 because of its transition from Division II, Wednesday’s game marked a rare opportunity for exhibition.

Although Bellarmine has played against such prestigious opponents as Duke, UCLA and Gonzaga for the past two seasons, Wednesday’s game was the Knights’ first against the blue-blooded program just three miles outside of town since the division change. Bellarmine never looked intimidated as he erased an initial 13-5 deficit with a 19-2 run.

Garrett Tipton led Bellarmine with 21 points and Bash Wieland added 13 on 11 of 12 free throws. Jae’Lyn Withers led Louisville with 17 points, Mike James added 16 and El Ellis finished with 14. The loss is further evidence that the Cardinals could have a long first season under Payne after they also missed their debut. against Division II Lenoir-Rhyne 57-47 on 30 October.

A 55-year-old former Louisville star and longtime Kentucky assistant under John Calipari, Payne inherited a team that finished just 13-19 in a 2021-22 season marred by the sacking of head coach Chris Mack in January. Louisville has only one NCAA Tournament win since 2015 as it fought under the weight of a recently completed Investigation of NCAA violations that did not yield significant sanctions.

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