A publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

NKU men post impressive 86-51 win over UIC on Saturday night; Norse women stun Green Bay

By Don Owen
NKyTribune reporter

From every angle, winning at home is a prerequisite to being highly successful in college basketball. Especially if a team has postseason aspirations on its radar.

Northern Kentucky University is making BB&T Arena a feared venue for opposing teams to visit. As a result, the Norse own a perfect home record and are living up to the lofty preseason expectations.

NKU’s Mason Faulkner (11) drives past UIC defender Jacob Wiley during the first half Saturday night. (Photo by Jeff McCurry)

The latest win, an 86-51 romp over Illinois-Chicago on Saturday night, might have been NKU’s most impressive triumph of the season. NKU (9-5 overall, 2-0 Horizon League) sprinted out to a 35-8 lead and cruised past UIC to remain unbeaten (7-0) at home this season.

“In order to compete for a championship, you have to protect your house,” NKU head coach John Brannen said. “Take care of your home floor, and then find a way to win on the road. The fans showing up each night are giving us a real home-court advantage, and it’s showing.”

NKU, in fact, has won 13 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.

And on Saturday night, NKU was not just scary good. The Norse were nightmarishly brilliant from an opponent’s point of view.

Mason Faulkner came off the bench and ignited NKU’s first-half offensive onslaught, drilling a pair of 3-pointers and adding another basket to help the Norse take a 19-4 lead. Faulkner’s two straight 3-pointers followed a pair of treys from teammate Lavone Holland II.

Several minutes later, Drew McDonald and Holland took turns burying consecutive 3-pointers, and NKU owned a 35-8 bulge that was never threatened. The Norse took a 49-16 advantage into halftime, having drained eight 3-pointers during the opening 20 minutes.

“I’ve asked Mason to distribute a little bit, run our team and learn the point guard position,” Brannen said of Faulkner, the sophomore guard from Caverna High School. “Mason is such a great offensive player he will have opportunities like tonight, and I was proud of the way he performed.”

NKU’s Carson Williams finishes off a dunk in the second half against UIC Saturday night. NKU won, 86-51. (Photo by Jeff McCurry)

NKU limited UIC to just 25.9 percent shooting from the field in the first half, including 0-for-7 from 3-point range. Throw in the fact NKU recorded 15 assists on 17 made baskets in the first half and won the rebounding battle 28-14, and it’s easy to see why this one was over at the break.

“A lot of times when you have a big lead at halftime, you see teams have a letdown in the second half,” Brannen said. “I thought our guys did the complete opposite in this one. They pushed forward, fought hard, and even extended the lead in the second half.”

The only drama remaining for NKU in the second half centered around Holland, who needed nine points after the break to reach 1,000 for his career. The senior guard had netted 12 points in the first half, but with NKU in control he attempted just two shots and went scoreless after the break. His career point total is now at 991.

“I don’t really think about reaching 1,000 too much, but Drew keeps reminding me,” Holland said with a laugh, pointing at McDonald during the postgame interview.

Holland also dished out five assists and grabbed seven rebounds during Saturday’s win.

“Lavone had another game with seven rebounds, and that’s tremendous for a point guard,” Brannen said. “He’s playing very well right now.”

McDonald notched his fourth straight double-double with 19 points and 12 rebounds. He also added three assists. Faulkner, who made a trio of 3-pointers, finished with 15 points and three assists.

Marcus Ottey scored 15 points to lead UIC, which dropped to 5-10 overall, 0-2 in the Horizon League. The Flames committed 18 turnovers and finished at 35.7 percent shooting from the field.

NKU travels to Rochester, Mich., on Friday night to meet Oakland in a Horizon League showdown. The Golden Grizzlies were picked as the preseason favorite to win the Horizon League. (Photo gallery)

NKU WOMEN STUN GREEN BAY: Taryn Taugher scored 17 points as the NKU women shocked nationally ranked Green Bay, 62-54, Saturday at BB&T Arena. Green Bay entered the game ranked No. 19 nationally but made just 35 percent of its shots from the field and fell to 11-2 overall, 1-1 in the Horizon League.

Molly Glick added 16 points and eight rebounds for NKU, which improved to 3-10, 1-1 in the Horizon League. Mikayla Terry chipped 13 of her 15 points in the second half as NKU recorded its first win over a nationally ranked opponent since making the transition to Division I.

Terry’s long 3-pointer with the shot clock running down gave NKU a 49-43 edge with less than two minutes remaining. The Norse sealed the win by converting their free throws in the final minute and defeated Green Bay for the first time in six attempts.

NKU shot 10-for-24 from 3-point range and converted 22 free throws in 26 attempts. Taugher was 9-for-10 from the charity stripe.

NKU plays at Detroit Mercy at 7 p.m. Thursday.

Contact Don Owen at don@nkytrib.com

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