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Women’s basketball set for three games in four days in Viking Invitational

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. — The Bellarmine University women’s basketball team is set to play three games in four days in the Hampton Inn Cleveland Downtown Viking Invitational hosted by Cleveland State.

Bellarmine (0-3) will face St. Bonaventure (1-2) at 7 p.m. (ET) Wednesday, square off against host Cleveland State (2-1) at 4 p.m. Friday and conclude the event with a 1 p.m. clash Saturday against Georgia State (2-3). The meetings will mark the first ever against each opponent.


St. Bonaventure, of the Atlantic 10, posted its first win of the season with a 69-63 victory Wednesday at Siena. The Bonnies led for much of the contest, including by 10 points in the third quarter and by 11 in the fourth. Siena never went away but couldn’t get closer than five in the final stanza.

Tianna Johnson recorded her first career double-double with a 17-point, 13-rebound effort for St. Bonaventure. Maddie Dziezgowski drilled five 3-pointers while adding 16 points. Dziezgowski missed one of the team’s three games but averages a team-high 17.0 points with a team-best eight 3-pointers over the other two. Johnson is averaging 11.3 points and 6.0 rebounds per game.

St. Bonaventure went 12-16 last season. The Bonnies were picked 15th in the A-10 preseason coaches’ poll.


Cleveland State is coming off an exceptional season as the Vikings went 23-9 last year while advancing to the finals of the Horizon League Tournament and the WBI Championship.

Cleveland State was predicted to finish third in the Horizon League preseason coaches’ poll, while Destiny Leo was selected as the Preseason Player of the Year. Leo is averaging a team-high 16.3 points per game this season.

Cleveland State opened the season with an 87-54 loss at No. 8 Iowa State but regrouped for a 62-46 home win over Hofstra and 90-83 overtime victory at DePaul. The Vikings are 1-0 in the Wolstein Center this season and were 12-4 at home last year.


When it comes to the week of the Viking Invitational, Georgia State will be the busiest participating team. The Panthers drilled Winthrop 68-45 at home Monday, kicking off a stretch of four games in six days.

The victory over Winthrop snapped a three-game losing streak, but Georgia State was edged 75-70 by Florida State and 65-57 by Florida A&M in the last two setbacks. The Panthers’ 2-3 record belies the fact that they’ve posted superior statistics over their opponents in several categories, most glaringly shooting 46.2 percent from the field to their counterparts’ 32.9 percent.

A member of the Sun Belt Conference, Georgia State has relied on balanced scoring, as seven Panthers are averaging between 7.2 and 10.6 points per game. Deasia Merrill and Mikyla Tolivert are both at the top end, averaging 10.6 points apiece.


Including the three games in the Viking Invitational, Bellarmine begins the 2022-23 campaign with six straight contests away from Freedom Hall. Two of the Knights’ first three matchups were against SEC squads, as BU opened the season at LSU and, most recently, played Thursday at Kentucky.

Bellarmine fell 63-45 to the Wildcats but did outscore them 28-26 in the second half. While still in the season’s infancy, the Knights are showing early signs of dramatic rebounding improvement, as they were even with Kentucky at 43 boards apiece following a plus-13 superiority in the previous game against Purdue Fort Wayne.

Bellarmine’s biggest continuing challenge will be its ability to take care of the basketball after losing senior guard Jaela Johnson to injury only minutes into the season opener. Turnovers arguably cost the Knights a win against PFW and they led directly to the team’s one bad quarter against UK.

Sophomore guard Hayley Harrison and freshman center Gracie Merkle are pacing Bellarmine at 10.7 points per game each. Merkle is also the team’s leading rebounder (7.3) and shot blocker (six).

For more coverage of Bellarmine athletics, follow us on Twitter (@BUKnights), Instagram (BUKnights) and Facebook (BUKnights).




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