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Nelson pounds the glass, Warrick dazzles in debut as NKU pulls out 74-73 win over Ball State

By Don Owen
NKyTribune sports editor

Adrian Nelson is still a rebounding machine. Trevon Faulkner is virtually unstoppable — unless an injury slows him down. And Bryson Langdon efficiently runs the offense, while also making big plays at clutch time.

Those were the familiar sights Wednesday night as Northern Kentucky opened the season with a heart-stopping 74-73 win over Ball State inside a fan-vacant BB&T Arena. The Norse rallied from a 68-62 deficit in the final 5:44 with a game-ending 12-5 run to defeat the Cardinals for the second straight year.

NKU’s Adrian Nelson pulls down one of his career-high 19 rebounds against Ball State. (Photo by Jeff McCurry)

Nelson ignited the comeback with a dunk and grabbed six of his career-high 19 rebounds during the final five minutes of the game. Langdon, meanwhile, buried a 3-pointer with 22 seconds remaining to give NKU a 74-73 lead.

Ball State then misfired on a pair of shots, Nelson rebounded the second miss and NKU freshman Marques Warrick was fouled with 6.3 seconds left on the clock. Warrick missed the front end of the bonus, but Nelson snatched the rebound away from two Ball State players and was fouled with 4.9 ticks remaining.

Nelson missed both free throws, and Ball State rushed the ball up the court. Kani Acree attempted a double-clutch jumper under heavy defensive pressure from about 20 feet away and the shot was off target at the buzzer, giving NKU the victory.

A year ago, Nelson was battling back from a knee injury and still averaged 6.3 rebounds per game. Now 100 percent healthy, Nelson’s dominance on the boards keyed the NKU win.

“Last year I was one of the main rebounders. This year I have to pick it up now that I’m fully healthy,” he said. “Not only crashing every time, but making sure my guy doesn’t get it. Just being aggressive every single time we come out and play.”

NKU head coach Darrin Horn described Nelson’s 19-rebound effort a bit more emphatically.

“Just absolutely monstrous,” Horn said. “Just an unreal effort by him.”

Warrick, the former Henry Clay High School star, poured in all 14 of his points during the first half as NKU built a 44-41 lead. The 6-foot-2 freshman guard also finished with four assists and four rebounds.

Marques Warrick scores a basket during the first half of NKU’s 74-73 win over Ball State. (Photo by Jeff McCurry)

“Marques, if there was ever a guy who is wired to score, it’s ‘Quez,” Horn said. “I think he did a good job of taking what the defense gave him, and going and making plays in the first half. The fact he didn’t score in the second half doesn’t mean he didn’t play well. (The shots) just didn’t go down at the same level.”

Faulkner netted 13 points in the first half, but the junior guard battled leg cramps the entire second half. The Mercer County High School graduate still finished with a team-leading 17 points.

“I thought he played with great pace, and at the same time with great patience offensively in the first half,” Horn said of Faulkner. “Then in the second half he cramped up and just couldn’t go. Not at the level that we need him to, because of how good we need him to be on both ends.

“I thought he was terrific to start the game and really set the tone for us.”

Trey Robinson scored 11 points in his NKU debut, while Adham Eleeda added 10 points. Eleeda also buried a clutch 3-pointer with 1:40 remaining to even the score at 70-all.

K.J. Walton led Ball State with 28 points and 11 rebounds. Ishmael El-Amin added 15 points for the Cardinals, who shot 43.8 percent from the field.

NKU converted 41.5 percent of its shots from the field and won the rebounding battle by a 43-39 margin. The Norse were 8-for-28 from 3-point range pulled out the victory despite shooting just 52.2 percent from the free-throw line.

NKU will play at UT Chattanooga on Saturday afternoon. The game is scheduled to begin at 2 p.m.


Thomas 3-4 2-4 9, Walton 11-21 6-10 28, Hazen 0-3 1-2 1, Bumbalough 0-6 0-2 0, El-Amin 6-13 1-1 15, Acree 2-7 0-0 4, Gunn 2-2 0-0 6, Windham 2-5 0-0 5, Huggins 2-2 1-2 5. Totals 28-64 11-21 73.
Faulkner 6-11 4-5 17, Langdon 2-6 1-2 6, Eleeda 3-8 1-1 10, Nelson 4-8 2-8 10, Warrick 6-16 0-1 14, Robinson 4-9 3-4 11, Harge 1-1 1-2 3, Böhm 1-5 0-0 3, Harding 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 27-65 12-23 74.
HALFTIME: NKU 44-41. 3-POINTERS: (NKU 8-28, BSU 6-23). REBOUNDS: NKU 43 (Nelson 19), BSU 39 (Walton 11).
RECORDS: NKU 1-0, Ball State 0-1.

NKU’s Trevon Faulkner goes to the basket against Ball State. (Photo by Jeff McCurry)

Bryson Langdon (11) is congratulated by NKU teammates Adham Eleeda (1) and Adrian Nelson (4) after hitting a 3-pointer to give the Norse a 74-73 lead. (Photo by Jeff McCurry)

NKU’s John Harge challenges a shot by Ball State’s Brachen Hazen (12) during the first half Wednesday night at BB&T Arena. (Photo by Jeff McCurry)

Don Owen is sports editor of the Northern Kentucky Tribune. Contact him at don@nkytrib.com and follow him on Twitter at @dontribunesport.

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