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NKU men to encounter high-scoring Oakland trio in nationally televised showdown Friday night

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By Don Owen
NKyTribune reporter

Most basketball coaches would cherish the opportunity to field a team that includes the league’s leading scorer.

But how about a team that features the top three scorers in the league? Yes, all on the same roster.

Oakland University head coach Greg Kampe enjoys that unusual luxury this season. And the Golden Grizzlies will put that offensive firepower on display Friday night when Northern Kentucky University visits Rochester, Mich., to take on Oakland in a Horizon League showdown that will be nationally televised on ESPN2 at 9 p.m.

Oakland enters Friday’s game with a 9-6 overall record, and the Golden Grizzlies are 1-1 in the Horizon League.

NKU’s Jordan Garnett dunks against UIC on Saturday night. Garnett averages 7.6 points per game. (Photo by Jeff McCurry)

Picked as the preseason favorite to win the Horizon League, Oakland features three players averaging at least 19 points per game. Senior guard Kendrick Nunn leads the Horizon League in scoring at 25.3 points per game, and he has drained 53 shots from 3-point range this season.

Nunn poured in 33 points during an 80-79 loss at Green Bay last Saturday. He is a transfer from Illinois, where he scored more than 1,000 career points in three seasons with the Illini.

Senior forward Jalen Hayes averages 20.1 points per game (No. 2 in the Horizon League) and a team-leading 8.5 rebounds per contest. Senior guard Martez Walker is scoring 19.3 points per game (No. 3 in the Horizon League) and is another long-range threat, having buried 38 shots from beyond the arc.

NKU is 9-5 overall, including a 2-0 record in the Horizon League. The Norse defeated Illinois-Chicago, 86-51, on Saturday night to remain unbeaten (7-0) at home this season.

On the road, NKU is 0-4 this season. The Norse have lost road games against Memphis (76-74), Maryland-Baltimore County (76-75), East Tennessee State (84-71) and Texas A&M (64-58).

NKU junior forward Drew McDonald ranks No. 5 in the Horizon League in scoring at 17.1 points per game. The Newport Central Catholic graduate has collected four straight double-doubles, the latest a 19-point, 12-rebound performance against UIC.

McDonald has six double-doubles this season and 22 in his career. He is also tied for third place in the Horizon League in rebounding with 8.1 boards per contest.

NKU’s Lavone Holland II leads the Horizon League in assists. (Photo by Jeff McCurry)

Senior point guard Lavone Holland II is No. 1 in the Horizon League in both assists per game (5.4) and assist-to-turnover ratio (2.7). Holland enters Friday with 991 career points and is scoring 13.1 points per game.

Sophomore forward Carson Williams averages 14.1 points per game and leads the Horizon League in field-goal percentage at .669. Senior forward Jordan Garnett is scoring 7.6 points per contest and has made 16 shots from 3-point range this season.

Oakland has beaten NKU three straight times, including twice last season. The Golden Grizzlies also hold the distinction of being the last road team to defeat NKU at BB&T Arena. On Jan. 20, 2017, Oakland posted a 79-70 victory at NKU. Since that setback, NKU has run off 13 consecutive wins at BB&T Arena.

Oakland holds a 9-8 lead in the all-time series with NKU. Since joining the Horizon League, NKU is 1-3 against Oakland.

WHAT: Northern Kentucky (9-5, 2-0 HL) at Oakland (9-6, 1-1 HL)
WHEN: Friday, Jan. 5, 9 p.m.
WHERE: Rochester, Mich.
ARENA: Athletics Center O’rena (4,000 capacity)
SERIES: OU leads, 9-8

Contact Don Owen at don@nkytrib.com

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