Adam Pruiett, Bellarmine University Athletics
LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Following one of the most successful campaigns in program history, the Bellarmine University women’s basketball team will play six teams that appeared alongside it in the 2015-16 DII NCAA Tournament, including a marquee showdown with the Midwest Region’s top seed in Ashland at Knights Hall, Coach Chancellor Dugan noted in announcing her squad’s 2016-17 schedule.
The defending Great Lakes Valley Conference Tournament champion will carry a 27-game regular-season slate, including 11 outings at Knights Hall. Bellarmine will compete in nine nonconference matchups and 18 GLVC contests. The six NCAA Tournament teams from last season are divided evenly between conference and nonconference schools.
Bellarmine, which went 24-4 last year, opens the season with a pair of games at Ferris State. The Knights will meet the Bulldogs on Nov. 11 and play a neutral-site contest against Wayne State on Nov. 13. Bellarmine follows with its home debut, a Nov. 19 contest with Ohio Dominican.
The Knights will then play the first of their six opponents that joined them in the NCAA Tournament, heading to Kentucky State for a Nov. 23 clash. Bellarmine wraps up November with two games at neutral-site Southern Indiana, competing Nov. 26 against Michigan Tech and Nov. 27 versus Young Harris.
Bellarmine will have a brief foray into GLVC competition when it plays at Illinois Springfield on Dec. 1 and at McKendree on Dec. 3. Nonconference play resumes as the Knights will travel to the Sunshine State to compete in the Palm Beach Atlantic Tournament, meeting Florida Tech (Dec. 18) and the host Sailfish (Dec. 19). Florida Tech earned a berth in the NCAA Tournament last season.
Bellarmine’s final nonconference game of the regular season may be its most anticipated before GLVC action gets into full swing. On Dec. 30, the Knights will welcome in Ashland, which last season posted a 31-2 record and was the Midwest Region’s top seed in the NCAA Tournament.
“Ashland is going to be a great matchup,” Dugan said. “Our nonconference schedule is tough, and I scheduled that way because we have a veteran group. I think to be ready for the GLVC, you have to play some tough teams and be challenged.”
Bellarmine will open the new year with its GLVC home debut, hosting Rockhurst on Jan. 5 and William Jewell on Jan. 7. The Knights then travel to Quincy (Jan. 12), the GLVC Tournament runner-up and an NCAA Tournament team, before heading to Truman State (Jan. 14) and Southern Indiana (Jan. 16).
Another premier contest at Knights Hall follows as Bellarmine will host Lewis (Jan. 19), the defending GLVC East champion and an NCAA Tournament team, before welcoming in Wisconsin-Parkside (Jan. 21). The Knights end January with road outings at Indianapolis (Jan. 26) and Saint Joseph’s (Jan. 28).
Bellarmine’s Feb. 2 clash with Drury, the defending GLVC West champion and an NCAA Tournament outfit, will likely be yet another much-hyped matchup at Knights Hall. Missouri S&T will be welcomed in on Feb. 4 before Bellarmine heads to Maryville (Feb. 9) and Missouri-St. Louis (Feb. 11).
The Knights will then conclude the regular season with home games against McKendree (Feb. 16), Illinois Springfield (Feb. 18) and Southern Indiana (Feb. 23).
“The GLVC is always a grind, like a gauntlet, and I wouldn’t want it any other way,” Dugan said.
In constructing the schedule, Dugan said she is particularly interested to see how her experienced and talented group — one that will certainly have title aspirations — deals with life outside of Knights Hall.
“We’ve got to be able to win on the road,” she said. “The GLVC Tournament is on the road and, if we’re fortunate enough to make the regional, there’s no guarantee it will be here and history says that it most likely won’t be, so you’ve got to win in somebody else’s gym and overcome adversity where you won’t have all of Knights Nation up there in the stands. We have to have that foxhole mentality where it’s us against the world.”
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