A publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

NKU men spoil IUPUI’s Horizon League debut with 77-59 win on Thursday; Norse women lose thriller

By Don Owen
NKyTribune reporter

The brutally cold temperature outside didn’t prevent Northern Kentucky University from unleashing a scorching-hot shooting performance inside BB&T Arena during the second half against IUPUI on Thursday night.

NKU blistered the nets for 66.7 percent from the field after the break and cruised to a 77-59 win against IUPUI, spoiling the Horizon League debut for the visitors. The Norse overcame a slow start and used a 19-0 run in the first half to turn a 21-12 deficit into a 31-21 lead.

NKU’s Drew McDonald (34) is defended by IUPUI’s Aaron Brennan on Thursday night. McDonald scored 27 points to lead the Norse. (Photo by Jeff McCurry)

“We picked up our intensity as a team, and we knew there was plenty of time left to chip away at their lead,” NKU junior forward Drew McDonald said. “We focused on the defensive end, made sure we would get the rebounds and loose balls, and just let the offensive game come to us.”

McDonald ignited the NKU offensive with a season-high 27 points on 11-for-16 shooting from the field. He also grabbed 10 rebounds to collect his third consecutive double-double.

“Drew McDonald is really locked in right now, and his focus is at another level right now,” NKU head coach John Brannen said. “You can see it in practice, his leadership is showing in so many ways. I also thought our bench was huge for us and gave us a big lift in the first half, and our ability to get stops when we were down early.”

Dantez Walton came off the bench in the first half and scored five of his seven points, and Mason Faulkner drilled a big 3-pointer before intermission to extend NKU’s advantage to 29-21.

Walton capped the 19-0 run with a basket with 42 seconds remaining, giving the Norse a 31-21 lead. IUPUI finally stopped the NKU run with a free throw right before halftime, but the Jaguars never recovered from the huge Norse spurt.

“Dantez also gets six rebounds and three blocks, and that’s a big reason we were able to pull away,” Brannen said. “He was a big factor in this win, especially with the lift he gave us in the first half.”

NKU’s Dantez Walton drives against IUPUI defender Elyjah Goss on Thursday night at BB&T Arena. (Photo by Jeff McCurry)

IUPUI, which competed in the Summit League last season before switching to the Horizon League this summer, dropped to 3-9 overall. NKU and IUPUI had not played since Dec. 19, 1984, long before either program had made the transition to NCAA Division I.

In fact, the last time these two programs met on the basketball floor, IUPUI competed in the NAIA and sported a different nickname — the Metros.

“We knew it was a big deal for them, this being their first game in the Horizon League,” McDonald said. “We didn’t know much about them since this is their first year in the league. They came out and hit us early to get the lead, but we stepped up our defensive intensity and the shots started falling.”

Carson Williams netted 11 points and hauled down six rebounds for NKU, which improved to 8-5 and snapped a two-game losing streak. Norse senior guard Lavone Holland II dished out eight assists and grabbed seven rebounds. Holland entered the game with 974 career points but scored just five on Thursday night.

“Lavone does so many other things that people don’t realize,” Brannen said. “He didn’t have his best shooting night, but he made good decisions passing the ball and just look at the rebounds. That’s good production.”

D.J. McCall scored 11 points to pace IUPUI, which made just 33.9 percent of its shots from the field. The Jaguars made eight shots from 3-point range but lost the rebounding battle by a 38-31 margin.

Faulkner added seven points and three assists off the NKU bench, while Tyler Sharpe made a pair of 3-pointers. The Norse finished at 57.4 percent from the field, including 6-for-15 shooting from 3-point range.

NKU remained perfect (6-0) at home this season and has won 12 consecutive games at BB&T Arena dating back to last season. The Norse have not lost at home since dropping a 79-70 decision to Oakland on Jan. 20, 2017.

NKU wraps up the two-game Horizon League homestand Saturday when Illinois-Chicago visits BB&T Arena at 7 p.m. (Photo Gallery)

NKU WOMEN LOSE THRILLER: The Milwaukee women’s basketball team rallied from a nine-point deficit in the fourth quarter and survived a last-second NKU attempt to pull out a 52-49 win over the Norse on Thursday night at BB&T Arena.

Trailing 51-49 in the final 10 seconds, NKU’s Samari Mowbray attempted a 3-pointer that bounced on the rim and was rebounded by Milwaukee. Bailey Farley added a free throw with 0.7 seconds remaining, and the Panthers (10-3) avoided the upset in the Horizon League opener for both teams.

Grace White led NKU (2-10) with 15 points and eight rebounds. Molly Glick added 10 points for the Norse, who made just one field goal in the fourth quarter.

Steph Kostowicz scored a game-high 17 points to lead Milwaukee, which outscored NKU 17-5 in the final quarter.

Contact Don Owen at don@nkytrib.com

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