A publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

East Tennessee State sizzles from field (59.6 percent), posts 84-71 win over NKU; Thomas More wins in OT

By Don Owen
NKyTribune reporter

JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. — Tough road losses in December can actually turn into something positive by the time March rolls around.

That’s what Northern Kentucky University is hoping after suffering an 84-71 loss at East Tennessee State on Wednesday night. The host Buccaneers used a 15-0 run early in the first half to turn a 9-7 deficit into a 22-9 advantage, scorched the nets for 59.6 percent shooting from the field and cruised to the victory.

NKU’s Jordan Garnett (left) defends ETSU’s Desonta Bradford on Wednesday night. ETSU won, 84-71. (Dakota Hamilton/ETSU)

ETSU (5-3) won the Southern Conference championship last season and earned a berth in the NCAA Tournament, while NKU captured the Horizon League title and also advanced to March Madness. Facing a talented non-conference opponent on the road can prove beneficial in the long-term scheme of a college basketball season.

But, as NKU discovered Wednesday night, beating a team like ETSU twice in a season is extremely difficult.

ETSU shot a sizzling 59.3 percent from the field in the first half to build a 46-28 lead at the break. Senior guard Devontavius Payne dropped in 11 first-half points off the bench to spark ETSU.

Payne finished with a team-high 16 points and three steals to lead ETSU. Bo Hodges added 14 points for the Buccaneers, while teammates Jalan McCloud (12) and 7-footer Peter Jurkin (10) also netted double-figure scoring. ETSU finished with a 42-11 advantage in bench scoring and a 22-10 edge in points off turnovers.

Sophomore forward Carson Williams scored 22 points to lead NKU, which dropped to 6-3. Williams, an Owen County High School graduate, shot 10-for-13 from the field and also grabbed four rebounds. Senior guard Lavone Holland II added 14 points and five assists for the Norse.

In its two prior losses this season, NKU had lost in the final seconds. ETSU, however, allowed no such dramatics Wednesday. The Buccaneers led by as many as 21 points in the second half and coasted to the win.

NKU’s Carson Williams (23) attempts to trap ETSU’s Desonta Bradford on Wednesday night. (Dakota Hamilton/ETSU)

NKU and ETSU had squared off in a season-opening clash at Highland Heights on Nov. 10, a game the Norse won, 81-63. In that victory, NKU held ETSU to just 36.7 percent shooting from the field, including 2-for-18 accuracy from 3-point range.

Drew McDonald, who scored 22 points in the season-opening win against ETSU, picked up two early fouls Wednesday night and sat out most of the first half. The junior forward from Newport Central Catholic finished with 10 points, all in the second half.

“We really concentrated on not turning the ball over because that was a major problem for us the first time we played [NKU] earlier this season,” ETSU head coach Steve Forbes said. “We have a lot of respect for their program and they’re doing a lot of good things up there. This was a good win.”

NKU shot 49.1 percent from the field and was 4-for-17 from 3-point range. ETSU blocked seven shots, with Jurkin and Hodges both credited with three blocks.

Next for NKU is in-state rival Eastern Kentucky, which visits BB&T Arena at 6 p.m. Sunday. The Colonels are 4-5 after dropping a 74-62 decision at Oregon State on Tuesday night.

NKU and Eastern Kentucky have not met since Dec. 2, 1992, when the Colonels posted an 81-71 victory against the Norse in Richmond. Eastern Kentucky owns a 5-2 lead in the all-time series with NKU. Six of those seven previous meetings were played in Richmond.

TMC MEN PULL OUT OVERTIME WIN: Ryne Callahan scored four points in overtime to spark Thomas More College’s 61-57 win at Manchester (Ind.) University on Wednesday night.

Thomas More (5-3) owned a 49-39 lead with less than five minutes remaining in regulation, but Manchester used a 13-3 run to tie the game at 52-all and force overtime.

Callahan drained a 3-pointer in overtime to give the Saints a 59-54 bulge with 45 seconds left. He added a free throw with 16 seconds remaining to extend the Thomas More lead to 60-54.

Simon Clifford paced Thomas More with 17 points, while Brandon Horne collected a double-double with 12 points and 10 rebounds. Callahan finished with nine points for the Saints, while Damion King scored eight points and dished out seven assists.

Thomas More plays host Chatham University at 3 p.m. Saturday at the Connor Convocation Center.

Contact Don Owen at don@nkytrib.com

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