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NKU blisters nets for 70.8 percent shooting in second half, pulls away for 76-57 win over Eastern Kentucky

By Don Owen
NKyTribune reporter

After watching Eastern Kentucky bury seven 3-pointers in the first half, Darrin Horn’s message to his Northern Kentucky squad in the locker room at intermission wasn’t complicated.

“We had to get more pressure on the basketball,” said Horn, in his first season as NKU’s head coach. “We felt like they were slipping around too easily in the first half. And also knowing where shooters are. Let’s try to get those guys off the line, and make them make the next play in terms of not just letting them step into a clean three. That was the biggest thing defensively.”

Horn’s adjustments worked perfectly. NKU limited Eastern Kentucky to just 2-for-12 shooting from beyond the arc in the second half, and the Norse used a late 14-0 run to pull away for a 76-57 victory at BB&T Arena.

NKU’s Dantez Walton converts a short jumper in the first half against Eastern Kentucky. Walton finished with 18 points and nine rebounds. (Photo by Jeff McCurry)

Five NKU players scored in double figures, with Trevon Faulkner and Dantez Walton each netting 18. Bryson Langdon added 14 points for NKU, which shot a blazing 70.8 percent from the field in the second half.

Horn pointed out that against a pressing team such as Eastern Kentucky — which applied full-court pressure virtually the entire 40 minutes and forced 21 turnovers — taking care of the basketball was paramount.

“Part of what they do is lull you into these shots that seem like they’re great shots, and the crowd thinks you’re getting great shots, but they are not exactly the right shot you want,” Horn said of the hectic tempo caused by Eastern Kentucky’s press. “We talked all week about not settling in that situation. Attacking, taking layups, taking open threes if they were multiple-pass threes.

“If not, bring it back out. Let’s run some offense, let’s play through (Walton). I thought we did a better job of that in the second half. It really helped during that stretch in the second half that got us back in front, when we went through Walton three or four times. We posted up Trevon and got really good looks at the basket.”

Eastern Kentucky (3-6) bolted out to a 21-9 lead by knocking down five early 3-pointers and forcing seven quick turnovers. NKU responded with a 15-0 run, capped by a Faulkner basket, to gain a 24-21 advantage. Faulkner scored 14 points in the first half, while Walton and Tyler Sharpe each added eight points before the break.

“I think we had a couple of careless turnovers,” Sharpe said of the early deficit. “We didn’t get our press-break set correctly. A couple of mental mistakes. It’s something we put a lot of work into coming into tonight’s game.

“We definitely turned it over more than we would’ve liked to, but I thought in the second half we did a much better job handling it and slowing the game down. Not getting ahead of ourselves and making sure we took the shots we wanted to take.”

NKU’s Adrian Nelson hits a jumper in the lane against Eastern Kentucky defenders Darius Hicks (5) and Michael Moreno (24) in the second half. (Photo by Jeff McCurry)

Eastern Kentucky’s Ty Taylor netted all 14 of his points in the first half, including a trio of 3-pointers. NKU held Jomaru Brown — Eastern Kentucky’s leading scorer at 19 points per contest entering Sunday — to just five points on 2-for-10 shooting from the field.

NKU limited the visitors to 32.1 percent shooting from the field in the second half. The Norse, meanwhile, blistered the nets for 17-for-24 (70.8 percent) shooting and drained five 3-pointers in 11 attempts. NKU also won the battle of the boards by a whopping 39-22 margin, with Walton pulling down nine rebounds.

Faulkner dished out a career-high seven assists and grabbed six rebounds, while Adham Eleeda came off the bench and added six points and six boards. Sharpe and Adrian Nelson each finished with 10 points, with Sharpe also collecting three steals and four assists in 40 minutes of action.

Nelson, who hauled in a career-high 12 rebounds in a win at Miami (Ohio) on Tuesday night, was 5-for-6 from the field against Eastern Kentucky. Having battled back from a preseason knee injury, Nelson has emerged as a key for the Norse inside game.

“At the beginning of the season, just coming back from injuries, I was trying to get my feet back under me,” said Nelson, who equaled a career high with the 10 points. “My teammates have been trying to lift me up, just to help me keep my head straight.

“Since then, I’ve been playing better and better. So hopefully, I can build on that and help the team moving forward.”

Nelson’s basket at the 12:07 mark extended the NKU edge to 51-48. Walton later drained a 3-pointer to make it 54-48, and Langdon beat the Colonels defense for a driving layup to give the Norse a 56-48 advantage.

Houston King countered with a pair of baskets to cut the NKU lead to 56-52, but then Nelson took a feed from Faulkner and finished with a two-handed dunk that ignited a 16-2 spurt — a run that included 14 straight points — and a 72-54 bulge.

Langdon poured in 12 of his 14 points in the second half. He also finished with four assists and two steals.

Eastern Kentucky still owns a 6-4 lead in the all-time series with NKU. The Norse have defeated the Colonels twice in the past three meetings.

NKU (7-3) takes this week off for exams and plays host to Illinois State next Sunday at 2 p.m. at BB&T Arena.


Brown 2-10 0-0 5, Taylor 5-10 0-0 14, T. King 3-5 1-1 7, Hicks 1-6 1-4 3, Anderson 1-2 0-0 3, H. King 3-7 0-0 6, Moreno 3-5 0-1 6, Cruickshank 2-7 0-0 6, Hobbs 3-8 0-0 7, Carmical 0-0 0-0 0, Balogun 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 23-60 2-6 57.
Sharpe 3-7 3-3 10, Adheke 0-0 0-0 0, Walton 7-11 1-1 18, Faulkner 6-12 6-7 18, Langdon 5-6 2-2 14, Eleeda 2-6 0-0 6, Nelson 5-6 0-2 10, Mocaby 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 28-48 12-15 76.
HALFTIME: TIED 35-35. 3-POINTERS: (NKU 8-22, EKU 9-26). REBOUNDS: NKU 39 (Walton 9), EKU 22 (Hicks 6).
RECORDS: NKU 7-3, EKU 3-6.

NKU’s Trevon Faulkner (left) is fouled by Eastern Kentucky’s Darius Hicks (5) while converting a double-clutch jumper in the lane during the second half. (Photo by Jeff McCurry)

NKU WOMEN FALL TO NO. 2 LOUISVILLE: Jazmine Jones scored 21 points off the bench, including nine during a 20-2 third-quarter run that helped No. 2 Louisville post an 85-57 win at NKU on Sunday.

Holding a 37-35 haltime lead, Louisville (9-1) turned its defense up a notch and eventually outscored NKU (4-5) 31-9 in the third quarter to bounce back from Thursday’s 67-60 loss at Ohio State.

Jones shot 9-for-10 from the field. Dana Evans added 16 points for the Cardinals, who dominated the boards by a 42-20 margin.

Molly Glick and Carrisa Garcia each scored 13 points for NKU, and Ally Niece added 12 points. The Norse had won their previous four games following an 0-4 start.

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