The Northern Kentucky Men’s basketball team fell to archrival Bellarmine 77-85 in overtime on Feb. 11, snapping a two-game winning streak the Norse compiled last week.
Senior center David Palmer led the Black and Gold with 26 points. Junior guards Dennis Gagai and Chris Knight finished with 21 and 14 points respectively. Freshman guard Corey Sorrell added 12 points and pulled down seven rebounds.
This marks the tenth game the Norse have lost by eight points or less this season. Senior guard Scott Bibbins said that with the post season right around the corner, NKU needs to learn how to close out games.
“This game was another close overtime game that we lost,” Bibbins said. “We are running out of time and we have to find a way to start winning close games.”
The Norse entered overtime with a score of 66-66. In the extra period, Bellarmine (17-7, 10-5 Great Lakes Val- ley Conference) shot lights outsinking all four of their field goals plus a three-pointer. They converted 10 of their 12 free throw attempts that ultimately gave them an in- surmountable lead over the Norse.
Even though NKU hit 73 percent of their 15 free throws for the game, Bellarmine shot 17 more free throws and hit 75 percent of them. The Norse helped make up for that free throw discrepancy from behind the arc making 10 of their 22 attempts, but their efforts came up just short.
The game that followed the Bellarmine loss two days later wasn’t so close. Kentucky Wesleyan College (25-3, 14-2 GLVC) ousted NKU 80-60.
In their previous meeting on Jan. 21, NKU upset then ranked number 13 Kentucky Wesleyan 67-62. It appeared that a similar outcome was in the making as the Norse took a 32-30 halftime lead over the number 8 ranked Cougars.
The second half was a different story, though, as Kentucky Wesleyan outscored the Black and Gold 50-28.
“We came out strong against them but we let them pull away in the second half,” Bibbins said. “In this conference, Bellarmine and KWC are two extremely hard plac- es to play. There is no doubt that we can beat anybody that we play, especially at a neutral site, and I think the conference tournament will be a break out time for us and hopefully we can get on a roll.”
David Palmer scored 15 points and blocked four shots. Ethan Faulkner dropped in 11 points on 3-4 shooting from downtown and Chris Knight added 10 points of his own. The Norse struggled to protect the ball, however with 17 turnovers, and they only dished out six assists for the game.
Again, NKU faced a noticeable free throw discrepancy as they went to the line 14 fewer times than KWC and only connected on 57 percent of those attempts. On KWC’s 28 free throw attempts, they netted nearly 90 percent. This was KWCs first win against the Norse in six years.
“We missed a lot of free throws and we do work on them in practice,” Gagai said. “I believe it’s mostly a mental thing – we need to stay calm when going to the line instead of letting the pressure build up, which is what I think happened.”
With a current record of 13-12 overall and a GLVC record to 6-10, the Norse are in fifth place of their division and eighth place overall in the GLVC.
The remainder of their schedule doesn’t get any easier as the Norse will host undefeated Southern Indiana (23-0, 14-0 GLVC) on Feb. 18 at 7:45. They will finish their regular season at home with a game against Indianapolis (12-13, 6-10 GLVC) on Feb. 20 at 7:45.
In preparation for these games and the upcoming GLVC tournament, Gagai said he knows what his team needs to work on.
“Consistency. We need to practice hard and prepare for each team as best as we can.”
Story by Drew Laskey