It was Senior Day for the Northern Kentucky University men’s basketball team Feb. 26, and it was only appropriate that the five seniors were key factors in helping the Norse defeat Missouri-St. Louis 91-79.
Senior Jordan Stowers created excitement at the start of the game with a steal that he took coast-to-coast for the layup. As the Norse came back down the court, senior Pat Cary received a backdoor pass and threw it down, setting the tone for the game.
The game seesawed back and forth in the opening minutes of the game until the Norse pushed out to a 25-16 lead. The Rivermen of Missouri-St. Louis would not let this game get out of hand that early and answered with three straight three-pointers to tie the score at 25.
The Norse went on a 15-2 run that led them to a 20-point lead at halftime. The biggest play of the half came when senior Mike Kelsey took a three-point shot and was fouled for the chance at a four-point play.
At halftime, the Norse were out-shooting, out-rebounding and outplaying the Rivermen. The Norse were shooting 63.3 percent from the field. NKU forced nine turnovers that translated into 15 points.
NKU started the second half continuing to outscore the Rivermen but the fouls began to stack up against them. After seven minutes of play, NKU had eight fouls compared to UMSL’s two.
“We can’t blame anything on the officiating because we knew that we were going to have to play the way they called,” Coach Dave Bezold said.
With 12:10 left in the second half, Kelsey nailed a three-pointer putting NKU up by 15, and Bezold called a timeout to regroup.
With about 8:09 on the clock, NKU center Derek Smith and Missouri-St.Louis point guard Sherome Cole both went after a loose ball. Soon Cole was on the ground and Smith was above him, both pushing and shoving. According to Smith, things escalated after Cole hit him below the belt. After watching the replays the referees administered double-technical fouls.
With 5:37 left in the game UMSL pulled within five but could not get any closer. NKU went on a 7-0 run giving them an 81-74 lead.
Kelsey also added his own 15 points to the Norse victory, bringing his career total to 1,539 points and passing Shawn Scott for seventh place.
“We were fortunate with the great first half that we had,” Bezold said. “We knew that Missouri-St. Louis’s tournament hopes were on the line, and we knew that they were going to give us a good 40 minutes of basketball.”
The Norse now head to the GLVC tournament to play Indianapolis March 3.