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NKU hits road to meet Northern Illinois on Friday night in key non-conference battle

By Don Owen
NKyTribune reporter

Will they, or won’t they? That’s probably what the Northern Kentucky University coaching staff is asking as they prepare to meet Northern Illinois on the road Friday night.

The question is in regards to three suspended Northern Illinois basketball players — Eugene German, Zaire Mateen and Dante Thorpe — and if they will be on the court Friday night.

That trio was charged with retail theft on Oct. 24, and all three sat out Northern Illinois’ 93-54 win over Rockford on Tuesday night. Their status for the NKU game on Friday is unknown.

The most interesting question surrounds German, a junior guard who averaged 20.6 points per game last season. He then declared for the NBA Draft in March, but later withdrew his name to return to Northern Illinois for this season.

But German also faced battery charges stemming from an incident in May in which he is accused of throwing eggs at two women, and that was before the shoplifting charges that forced Northern Illinois to suspend the three players last week.

NKU freshman Adrian Nelson scored 10 points in his Norse debut against Wilmington. (Photo by Jeff McCurry)

“We are aware of the incident involving three members of our program and are very disappointed in their actions as they do not reflect the high standards that we have for our student-athletes,” Northern Illinois head coach Mark Montgomery said in a statement last week. “As a result, each of these three student-athletes has been suspended indefinitely from competition.”

NKU will find out Friday night if “suspended indefinitely” meant a one-game absence against NCAA Division III member Rockford, or a more lengthy disciplinary action that will mean sitting out multiple contests.

NKU is 1-0 after posting a 102-38 victory over Wilmington (Ohio) on Tuesday night at BB&T Arena. It marked the 800th all-time win for the Norse men’s basketball program, which began on Nov. 12, 1971, with a 109-65 triumph over Calvary (Ky.) College inside old Newport High School’s gymnasium.

Sophomore guard Jalen Tate netted a game-high 17 points to lead NKU, which shot 58.5 percent from the field. Tate also grabbed eight rebounds and spearheaded a Norse defense that held Wilmington to just 22.4 percent shooting from the field.

Four other NKU players netted double figures, with Drew McDonald scoring 14 points, while Dantez Walton, Silas Adheke and Adrian Nelson each added 10 points. Adheke, the 6-foot-10 junior college transfer, also grabbed 14 rebounds as the Norse owned a whopping 58-24 advantage on the boards.

McDonald grabbed nine boards and moved into fourth place on NKU’s all-time career rebounding list, passing Todd Svoboda (770) with 771 rebounds. The Newport Central Catholic graduate also dished out three assists and blocked two shots in just 13 minutes of action.

NKU point guard Zaynah Robinson scored nine points and dished out four assists in his Norse debut Tuesday night. Robinson is a graduate transfer from Norfolk State. Freshman guard Bryant Mocaby also added nine points in his NKU debut.

Northern Illinois, which finished 13-19 last season, plays in the Mid-American Conference. The Huskies were 6-12 in the MAC in 2017-18.

Northern Illinois is one of five schools on the schedule the Norse are set to face for the first time, joining UNC Asheville, Manhattan, Coastal Carolina and Central Florida. NKU and Northern Illinois are also scheduled to play Dec. 20 in Highland Heights.

Friday, Nov. 9
Northern Kentucky (1-0) at Northern Illinois (1-0), 7 p.m.
NIU Convocation Center (10,000), DeKalb, Ill.
Radio: 55KRC (550 AM)

Contact Don Owen at don@nkytrib.com and follow him on Twitter at @dontribunesport

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