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NKU long-range shooters find rhythm, Norse coast to 82-70 victory over Coppin State

By Don Owen
NKyTribune reporter

Coppin State allowed Tyler Sharpe and his Northern Kentucky University teammates to find a rhythm on Sunday afternoon, and that’s usually big trouble for opponents who visit BB&T Arena.

“Once some of the guys on our team get in a rhythm, that’s when you see us hang 14 or 15 (3-pointers) in a game,” Sharpe said after pouring in 23 points during NKU’s 82-70 victory over Coppin State.

NKU, in fact, drained 14 triples in 35 attempts and improved to 3-1. Sharpe knocked down six 3-pointers and added five rebounds with three steals. The versatile backcourt standout netted 15 points in the first half as the Norse forged a 34-28 lead at intermission.

Tyler Sharpe drives to the basket in the second half against Coppin State’s Andrew Robinson. (Photo by Jeff McCurry)

“I felt like I got a couple of clean ones, where I could get my feet set and get into a rhythm,” Sharpe said. “They lost me a couple of times in transition, and I was able to get a couple of steals and easy ones off those.”

NKU head coach Darrin Horn praised Sharpe for igniting his team early in the game.

“Not only did Tyler play huge, but he played huge in the right moment when we were struggling a little bit,” Horn said. “We had about three possessions in the first half where he literally either made a shot or made a play. That’s what you want from a veteran guard, and he did an outstanding job of doing that tonight.”

Playing without injured guard Jalen Tate — who will have surgery Monday after suffering a broken left hand in practice — NKU implemented Bryson Langdon into the starting lineup at the point. He dished out six assists and added four points.

Horn said he was pleased with how his team responded to Tate’s absence.

“The hardest part was not knowing until Saturday basically, so we had one day to try to work through it,” Horn said. “You don’t replace Jalen Tate. I thought Bryson Langdon, Trevon Faulkner and Paul (Djoko) did a nice job in a one-day turnaround of trying to get us into stuff. [Coppin State] is a team that’s really hard to play against because they play a very unique defense.”

Coppin State (1-4) attempted to push the tempo offensively, but the Eagles struggled to defend NKU on the perimeter in the first half. During the final 20 minutes, the visitors had no defensive answer for Dantez Walton.

Walton scored 18 of his career-high 24 points in the second half, including a trio of 3-pointers. The 6-foot-6 senior also provided a highlight-reel moment in the second half by driving baseline and jamming home a thunderous two-handed dunk that extended NKU’s lead to 64-52.

NKU’s Dantez Walton prepares to slam down two of his career-high 24 points against Coppin State. (Photo by Jeff McCurry)

“He (Koby Thomas) was helping inside, I just drove it baseline and saw the opportunity,” Walton said.

Walton finished 9-for-14 shooting from the field, including 5-for-8 from 3-point range. He also grabbed nine rebounds and added four assists.

“We think he can play like that every night,” Horn said of Walton. “He seems to be a guy who lets how shots go early affect him. Fortunately tonight, they went in early. I think he felt really confident. It was good to see him break out and play with that offensive confidence.”

Karl Harris provided plenty of spark off the bench for NKU with 14 points, five rebounds and three blocks. He also finished off an alley-oop pass from Sharpe to give the Norse a 75-62 edge with 4:01 remaining.

“Tyler throws me a lot of those,” Harris said of the alley-oop. “He saw me ahead, and we made eye contact and he knows where to put the ball. It was a good pass by him.”

It marked the third time in four games Harris has netted double-figure scoring.

“He’s bringing us great energy. He’s getting on the glass,” Horn said of Harris, who scored 22 points in the Norse’s road win at Coastal Carolina on Tuesday night. “He’s knocking down open shots. He was a big boost again tonight.”

Silas Adheke hauled down 12 rebounds to lead NKU, which won the battle of the boards by a 44-39 margin. Faulkner finished with nine points, six rebounds and four assists.

Kamar McKnight scored 18 points to lead Coppin State, which made just five 3-pointers in 26 attempts. Dejuan Clayton added 15 points for the Eagles, who were held to 39.4 percent shooting from the field.

NKU dished out 21 assists as a team on 30 made baskets. The Norse shot 47.6 percent from the field but converted just eight of their 16 free throws.

Sunday marked the first meeting between NKU and Coppin State, which is a member of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference. The Norse are now 5-2 all-time against MEAC opponents.

NKU hits the road to meet Ball State at 7 p.m. Wednesday at Muncie. Ind.

Thomas 6-10 2-4 14, Medley-Bacon 3-8 0-0 6, McKnight 6-17 3-5 18, Clayton 5-8, 4-6 15, Andrew Robinson 4-12 1-1 9, Aaron Robinson 0-6 3-4 3, Williams 2-5 0-0 5. Totals 26-65 13-20 70.
Sharpe 8-17 1-2 23, Adheke 2-5 0-1 4, Walton 9-14 1-2 24, Faulkner 2-6 5-8 9, Langdon 2-7 0-1 4, Eleeda 0-2 0-0 0, Harris 6-9 0-0 14, Djoko 1-2 1-2 4, Nelson 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 30-63 8-16 82.
HALFTIME: NKU 34-28. 3-POINTERS: (NKU 14-35, CSU 5-26). REBOUNDS: NKU 44 (Adheke 12), CSU 39 (Thomas 9).
RECORDS: NKU 3-1, Coppin State 1-4.

NKU’s Silas Adheke elevates to jam home a basket in the second half against Coppin State. Adheke grabbed a game-high 12 rebounds during NKU’s 82-70 victory. (Photo by Jeff McCurry)

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