Division I upstart Bellarmine continues a tour through college basketball history on Sunday when it visits No. 19-ranked UCLA in Los Angeles.
The Bruins (4-2) welcome the Knights to Pauley Pavilion for Sunday’s contest, the fourth leg of a five-game road trip for a Bellarmine program in its third season of Division I competition.
Three of those five games pit the Knights against three of college basketball’s seven most-winning programs, in a trio of the sport’s most venerable venues.
Bellarmine (2-4) opened its expedition at Clemson on Nov. 18, then played the first of its three scheduled dates against basketball blue-bloods on Monday at Duke. The Knights return to their home state this upcoming Tuesday to visit Kentucky at Rupp Arena.
“Only four schools in the history of college basketball have played in Cameron Indoor Stadium, Pauley Pavilion and Rupp Arena,” Bellarmine coach Scott Davenport told NCAA.com before the Knights’ journey began. “It’s North Carolina, Notre Dame, St. John’s and Louisville. Only four. The closest anyone ever did it was over two seasons, 333 days, from December to the following November. We are going to do that in nine days.”
Bellarmine’s odyssey included an interlude Friday at Loyola Marymount, where the Knights struggled in an 80-59 decision.
The Knights gave up 15 3-pointers to the Lions and failed to find consistent offense in the second half. Loyola Marymount dominated after intermission, 43-25.
Garrett Tipton led the way with 12 points in the loss, which dropped Bellarmine to 0-3 on the road trip.
UCLA, meanwhile, plays its second nonconference date at home between the challenging Main Event in Las Vegas and next Thursday’s opening of Pac-12 Conference play.
The Bruins lost competitive games with Illinois and Baylor last week at the Main Event, during which blue-chip recruit-turned-freshman starter Amari Bailey struggled. After scoring in double figures in each of his first three games, Bailey finished with one point against Illinois and five versus Baylor.
He bounced back to produce a career-high 19 points in UCLA’s return home on Wednesday, highlighting a 100-53 rout of Pepperdine.
“Amari has unbelievable mental toughness,” UCLA coach Mick Cronin said. “I worry about him, because guys like him and Adem (Bona), I understand the pressures they’re under.”
Bailey and Bona arrived as five-star-rated prospects per 247Sports.com, and along with Dylan Andrews, made for the nation’s No. 13-ranked overall recruiting class. Bailey is averaging 10 points per game and cracked the starting lineup from the outset of the season.
Bona, coming off an 11-point, seven-rebound performance against Pepperdine, is averaging 7.2 points and five rebounds per game.
The freshmen have worked into a UCLA rotation built around veterans Jaime Jaquez Jr. and Tyger Campbell, leaders of the Bruins’ run to the 2021 Final Four and last season’s Sweet 16. The Bruins are also riding the breakout play of Jaylen Clark six games into this season.
Clark is averaging a team-leading 15.7 points per game, recorded a 23-point, 10-rebound double-double against Baylor and the meeting with Pepperdine marked his fourth game this season producing at least two steals.
–Field Level Media