HOUGHTON, Mich. – An extremely long trip, followed by a surprisingly short stay.
That sums up Northern Kentucky University’s trip to the upper peninsula of Michigan for the NCAA Division II Tournament, a journey that ended Friday in an 80-76 first-round upset at the hands of the University of Findlay at the SDC Gymnasium. The Norse – who six days earlier had captured their first-ever Great Lakes Valley Conference Tournament championship to earn the No. 3 seed in the NCAA II Great Lakes Region – let an early 10-point lead slip away Friday and finished the season with a 25-6 record.
Senior guard Charles Warren scored 25 points as sixth-seeded Findlay knocked off NKU in the opening game of the NCAA Tournament. The Oilers (23-7) also avenged a season-opening 70-62 loss to NKU and advanced to the NCAA Division II Great Lakes Region Tournament semifinals for the second straight year.
NKU – ranked No. 4 nationally in the NCAA Division II poll – shot 53.6 percent from the field, but committed 24 turnovers and allowed Findlay to connect on 56.9 percent of its shots from the field.
“With turnovers you not only have to beat the other team, but you have to then overcome your own mistakes,” NKU head coach Ken Shields said. “We turned the ball over a lot more than usual, and their soft press caught us being lazy.”
The Norse led by as many as 10 points in the first half as Quentin Smith scored 16 of his 18 points, but Findlay used a 15-2 run to start the second half to take a 50-42 lead. The Oilers eventually built a 10-point cushion (61-51), but NKU fought back with a late rally.
Bobby St-Preux’s basket with less than a minute left cut Findlay’s lead to 77-76, but Dustin Pfeifer made a pair of free throws with 16 seconds remaining to extend the Oilers’ advantage to 79-76. NKU’s Mike Kelsey attempted a three-point shot in the closing seconds, but the ball rimmed out and Pfeifer added a free throw for the final margin.
Senior guard Brenden Stowers scored 20 points and dished out six assists to lead NKU. Stowers finished his career No. 13 on the NKU all-time scoring list with 1,311 career points.
Smith finished his career at NKU with a double-double (18 points, 13 rebounds), while St-Preux and Kelsey each added nine points. Chris Seabrooks scored eight points and grabbed six rebounds for the Norse, who won the rebounding battle by a 32-22 margin.
It marked the first time since the 1977-78 season that NKU had lost in the first round of the NCAA Division IITournament.
Article by Sports Information