A legendary clash

Northern Kentucky University welcomed the University of Louisville Nov. 8 for the first basketball games at the new Bank of Kentucky Center.

Looking back on the game and the experience on the new court (was used in the Phoenix Regional in the NCAA Division I Men’s Tournament) NKU Women’s Basketball Head Coach Nancy Winstel had emotions about the place.

“Love it,” she said. “I love Regents Hall, but it’s really clean over here. My main feeling is that these women and men deserve a facility like the BOKC.”

The women’s team took on one of the top basketball programs in the country. Louisville is ranked No. 10 in the Associated Press Top 25 Poll.

For the Norse, the opportunity to play a Top 10 women’s team from Division I was tremendous.

“For Louisville to come here and play us, it was a pleasure,” Winstel said.

This was the first meeting between the two schools and the NCAA allowed Louisville, a Division I school to travel on the road for an exhibition game.

Winstel said the chance to play the Cardinals, despite losing the game 90-73, Winstel found the game to be positive.

“When you play an exhibition game, if you play somebody and beat a team by 40, you don’t find that much about yourself out there,” she said.

NKU senior guards Jessie Slack and Karen Brackman each had 15 points in the game to lead their team.

The Cardinals had four players in double figures with senior forward Candyce Bingham leading the way with 17 points and six rebounds.

NKU senior center Cassie Brannen found how tough it is to matchup with one of the top teams in Division I.

“They (Louisville) were definitely athletic,” she said. “We are not use to playing against that much athleticism. Other than that, we stood with them for most of the game, and we didn’t even play our best game.”

Slack added her comments about the Cardinals.

“They (Louisville) are so long and tall,” Slack said. “Passes we might usually make against teams similar size to us, might be there. Things look open, but Louisville closed the gap a lot quicker than other teams we play.”

With the exhibition game being the grand opening of basketball in the BOKC, it also was a welcome home for Louisville head coach Jeff Walz. Walz is an NKU Alumnus and also played for the Norse Men’s Basketball team from 1992-1995, according to the NKU Sports Information Web site.

The homecoming for Walz meant just as much to him as the exhibition itself. Seeing the changes to campus were “amazing” in Walz’s eyes.

“I stopped at Regents Hall to see the volleyball game and spoke over at the new Student Union, which is just fantastic,” he said. “They (NKU) have done a first-class job with this place (BOKC) and are going to have a lot of success here.”

On the men’s side, NKU gave Louisville a tough time, but fell to the Cardinals 84-69.

The Norse even had a four-point lead with 12:59 remaining before the Cardinals went on a 39-20 run to win the game.

“You knew when we had the lead, that we were going to have to defend the ball and make some tough shots,” NKU head coach Dave Bezold said. “They made the tough shots and we didn’t.”

Northern Kentucky University sophomore transfer Dustin Maguire led all players with 31 points in the game. The guard went 12-for-16 from the field including 9-for-12 from the 3-point line.

Louisville head coach Rick Pitino was not pleased with his team’s defense.

“We would have a better time guarding a Big East team than a team like Northern Kentucky,” Pitino said. “I know that sounds crazy, but when they have four or five guards around the perimeter, it makes it tough.”

Pitino was not exceptionally happy with the defense from Louisville freshman forward Samardo Samuels.

“Samuels gave up 15 points on defense because he does not know how to guard a guy who can shoot a fade-away three-pointer,” Pitino said. “He didn’t even have a defensive rebound until the end of the game.”

Samuels led his team on offense, however, with 29 points in the game. He went 10-of-11 from the field and was 9-for-12 at the free-throw line.

“We (Louisville) wanted to get a lot out of playing on the road and we did,” Pitino said. “The best part for us was the fact that when we went down, we never panicked.”

The women’s team will have the next couple of weeks off to prepare for the regular-season. NKU will face Wayne State at 6 p.m. Nov. 20 at the BOKC.

The men’s team will open the regular season against Ferris State at 1 p.m. Nov. 15 at the BOKC.