LA CROSSE, Wis. -- The 23rd-ranked Bellevue University basketball team flipped a four-point deficit into a nine-point advantage in just over three minutes late in the second half to rally past Viterbo University, 70-57, in a North Star Athletic Association contest on Friday evening at R.W. Beggs Sr. Gym on the V-Hawks' campus.
Viterbo held their largest lead of the second half at 53-49 with 8:06 to play before Bellevue responded with a dominant 13-0 run over the ensuing 3:22 to take a 62-53 lead with 4:44 to play. During that stretch BU received six straight points from Chris Ashanti, a layup by Chris Burton, a Tyler Morgan three, a layup by Nicolus Guzman, and a pair of free throws from Burton.
Bellevue improves to 20-9 with the victory, finishing the conference season with a 7-3 mark. For the Bruins, it marks the 16th-straight year in which they've reached the 20-win plateau, including hitting the milestone in each of head coach Shane Paben's eight seasons at the helm.
The Bellevue victory pulls them into a tie for first place in the North Star Point Standings with Valley City State heading into the final day of conference action tomorrow. A loss by the Vikings means BU will earn a share of the conference championship for the seventh-straight season and 15th time in program history.
Viterbo drops to 12-16 (3-5 North Star) with the loss. They'll close out their regular season tomorrow at 6 p.m. against #17 Mount Mercy.
Guzman paced Bellevue's first half attack with 13 points on 5-of-6 shooting, including a perfect 3-for-3 mark on three-point field goals. Mike Cardenas and Jerred Cook each hit a pair of first-half trifectas to help stake Bellevue to a 36-30 halftime advantage over the host V-Hawks.
For the game four different Bruins reached double figures, led by Guzman's 15 points. Cook and Ashanti added 11 while Cardenas chipped in 10. Ashanti pulled down a team-best seven rebounds on the night as the Bruins won the battle of the boards 34-27.
Jake Bamke was the Viterbo offense in the opening 20, scoring all of his game-high 17 points first half. He finished the game with nine rebounds and six assists. Ethan Haberman (14) and Pete Drummond (12) joined Bamke in double-figures on the evening. Haberman contributed six rebounds and Drummond added five assists for the home side.
For the game, Bellevue out-shot Viterbo 46.3% to 42.3% and committed eight turnovers (just one in the second half) against 11 for the V-Hawks. In all the game saw seven lead changes and two ties.
The meeting was the fourth-ever between the two squads and the first since a 64-47 BU triumph in Dec. of 2004. Bellevue has won all four match-ups between the two sides.
The Bruins close out the regular-season tomorrow with a 6 p.m. game at Governor's State. Pairings, game times, and locations for the North Star Athletic Association Tournament will be announced Sunday evening.