Neither team was from Indiana, nor was the game played in the Hoosier State, but one could say tonight’s game was a feature of past Indiana High School basketball stars. 11 players from Indiana showcased their talents in Louisville in a NCAA Division 1 matchup between the Stetson Hatters and host Bellarmine Knights.
I’ve been watching a lot of high school basketball lately, and we only try to watch the best games around. We have witnessed some storied matchups this year, but I realized tonight, down in the thick of the game, just how much quicker, physical, and precise the game of basketball is at the college level.
These Hatters from Florida played a well-executed basketball game. Their players were hot from the start and didn’t pull any punches. They played as one unit, making four or five passes in what seemed like three seconds. No player ever held the ball too long, and they always seemed to know when and where to find the open man. It worked, and they come away with the win 80-51.
Great unselfish teamwork. The Stetson coaching staff should be applauded on their play calling and bringing this group of guys together.
Stetson was hitting everything. It was a clinic from the arc and down low. A lot of those makes coming from the Indiana Boys – Josh Smith, Jalen Blackmon, and Luke Brown.
Josh Smith is a Junior forward listed at 6’8”, a sharp shooting star out of Monrovia High School. Smith started off the night with an opening play dunk. It set the tone, and the team was hyped. Bellarmine would quickly answer the opening dunk with their own quick score, but it would be their last points until midway through the first half.
Josh Smith would end the night with 16 points and 9 rebounds, 3 assists, 4 blocks and 1 steal. He has been on a tear the past four to five games, nearly averaging a double-double in that span. Smith is becoming a vital piece to this Stetson assault.
Jalen Blackmon, a 6’3” sophomore guard from Marion, Indiana, led all scorers with 21 points, 4 rebounds, and 3 assists. He’s carried on the Blackmon tradition of just being way too smooth out there on the court. Jalen, liked the rest of his family, made it look effortless. It was a joy to watch him play.
The last player from Indiana on this Stetson team, Luke Brown, is probably one of the best shooters I’ve seen. Brown hails from Blackford High school and is extremely popular in the Indiana Highschool basketball groups. I can see why now, as he showed no fear scoring 20 points, off 6 of 7 three pointers. The whole Hatters basketball team was on fire, but it didn’t seem like Brown could miss. Regardless of how well he was defended.
Two international players also had great games for Stetson, Wheza Panzo a senior from Ontario, Canada, rounded off the double-digit scorers for Stetson with 12 points.
Junior Stephan Swenson, a guard from Brussels, Belgium, finished with 7 points, but it was his playmaking ability that really opened up the doors for his team. This guys has handles for days, and looked generally happy to just be playing the game of basketball. I loved his energy and attack.
Bellarmine just couldn’t get anything to fall tonight. No one could find their rhythm, and they went down early and quick. It was a 40 to 19 game at the end of the half. They had flashes where they’d start to build something, but Stetson would quickly come down and nail a three and squash any hope.
The Knights offense was very slow, usually taking every bit of the play clock down. I think this slower pace crippled them.
Indiana native Curt Hopf, who won the 1A state championship with Barr-Reeve in 2021, was held in check all night by the stellar defense from Stetson’s Josh Smith. The big-bodied Hopf finished the night with 2 points and 3 rebounds.
Freshman guard Peter Suder, another Hoosier from Carmel, was the only Knight that could find a touch. He battled to score 14 points, the highest total for Bellarmine, but it just didn’t come at the right times.
Stetson led the rebound category with 34 to the Knights’ 23. Stetson finished with 16 assists, 11 for Bellarmine. Stetson went 29-57 (51%) from the field, Bellarmine shot 20-47 (43%). Stetson shot 3-4 free throws and 19-40 from 3. Bellarmine shot 8-13 free throws, and 3-15 from 3.
All and all this was a great game and a fun venue to watch basketball. I’d like to thank the media staff at Bellarmine University for allowing me to be a part of the experience. The Hatters will be staying in the area, playing Eastern Kentucky on Saturday at 3 pm. If you get a chance to go watch them, I’d say get down there.
Bellarmine will host Florida Golf Coast on Saturday at 4:00 pm. Bellarmine moves on with a record 7 wins and 11 loses, and fall to 11th in the ASUN conference.
With the win, Stetson moves on to a 10-6 record, 5-0 in conference play, taking the lead in the ASUN conference. We have high hopes at SISN that we get to see this Stetson team in the NCAA Tournament.