Norse Notebook: In loss, Holland and Williams push Norse

The University of Kentucky got the victory over Northern Kentucky University Friday night, but not before they came face to face with last year’s Mr. Kentucky Basketball.

Carson Williams was a workhorse in the match up with the Wildcats, scoring 21 points and grabbing nine rebounds against a long Kentucky team that outrebounded the Norse 46-40.

After missing a couple early layups, Williams was a consistent scorer down low against Derek Willis. Williams bulled and spun his way to the basket several times against Willis, finishing at the rim. 

Williams was an efficient 7-10 from the field and was a perfect 7-7 from the free throw line.

Williams scored 17 of his 21 points in the second half, scoring key baskets when the Wildcats were just about ready to pull away.

“Carson’s moved the needle toughness wise as much as anyone in this program,” head coach John Brannen said. “I knew he’d have a great second half.”

With just four points in the first half, Williams said Brannen had a conversation with him in the locker room at halftime about his performance.

“Coach just mentioned to me that I didn’t look like myself on the court,” Williams said. “So in the second half, I came out with more of an attack and toughness mindset and that’s what made the difference.”

Williams finished the season as the Horizon League Freshman of the Year finishing the season with 10.5 points per game and 5.8 rebounds a game. 

He was joined in the 20 point club by fellow Kentucky native Lavone Holland II, who scored 22 points on 10-21 shooting. While the shooting percentage of Holland may not reflect it, Holland was the best player on the floor for the Norse much of the night.

In the middle of the first half, Holland drove past De’Aaron Fox and rose up for a thunderous dunk over Mychal Mulder. 

Holland was able to drive to the basket all night against the speedy Fox, who thought Holland played a well rounded game.

“He was great off the ball screen,” Fox said. “We tried to pressure him. He handled the pressure pretty well today. He scored the ball and that’s what we knew he was going to do.”

While many were introduced to the junior college transfer on CBS, Brannen has been watching him develop and grow into a dynamic player.

“His ability to break off the bounce helps our offense, helps guys like Drew (McDonald) and Carson,” Brannen said. “He’s a great point guard. Lavone has gotten better since the day he’s gotten here in every facet.”  

Most importantly in this game, Holland kept the turnovers to a minimum, turning the ball over just three times.

Norse Notebook

NKU could not hit very many open shots. The Norse struggled to put the ball in the baskets. It wasn’t because the Wildcat defense was smothering the Norse, they were getting open shots and good looks.

The Norse went on a 9-0 run midway through the second half to cut the Wildcat lead to 23-21. Cole Murray missed a wide open three that would have given the lead back to the Norse. 

Instead of a one point lead with six minutes to go, the Wildcats went on a 10-0 run. 

The Norse fought off run after run by the Wildcats. After getting down by 18 with 8:07 left, the Norse went on a run at the end of the game to cut the lead to eight with two minutes left but ran out of time. 

Williams and Holland scored 43 points combined while seven other Norse players scored a combined 27 points.

Murray and McDonald struggle

Cole Murray struggled mightily, going 2-9 from the field and finished with six points. Murray fouled out in the final few minutes of the game, ending his Norse career minutes before the end of the Norse season.

As he left the floor for the final time in his career, Murray held up a fist to the large Norse crowd. Murray ends his senior year shooting 43.3 percent from three and averaged 10.2 points per game. 

First Team Horizon League member Drew McDonald also struggled, going 5-18 on the night and only recording five rebounds. McDonald missed several floaters throughout the game and had to battle with Bam Adebayo all night.

To make a tough night even worse, his shoe ripped at the beginning of the second half.

Cheerleaders show support for cancer patient

The NKU cheerleaders wore bows on their uniforms to show support for 5-year-old Sophia Kappen who is battling Leukemia. Sophia lives in Florence.