Northern Kentucky University’s men’s and women’s basketball teams kicked off the Great Lakes Valley Conference with opening-round wins, but only one would win their quarterfinal game. After defeating Missouri University of Science and Technology 62-53 on Saturday afternoon, the NKU men’s team returned to action less than 24 hours later to knock off St. Joseph’s College on their home floor 66-60.
With the win, the Norse advance to the semifinals of the GLVC Tournament held in Springfield, Ill., where they’ll take on Kentucky Wesleyan College at 7 p.m. ET on Saturday.
In the win over St. Joseph’s, NKU sophomore guard Tony Rack, came off the bench to lead with 13 points in 24 minutes of action. David Palmer and Scotty Bibbins added 11 and 10 points respectively. NKU (17-12) took a 34- 20 lead into the locker room over the Pumas, but a cold start to the second half allowed St. Joseph’s to storm back and take a 43-42 lead with 10:35 remaining in the game. Rack then stepped up and scored eight points to key a 12-3 run over the next 4:25 for the Norse.
St. Joseph’s would never get closer than four points the rest of the game.
“I just didn’t want it to be my last game and we know we have to win a few games in our conference tourney to make the NCAA tourney, so we had to make sure we didn’t lose,” said Bibbins, who dished out a team-high five assists.
In Saturday’s game against Missouri S&T, Palmer turned in a stellar performance with 18 points and 10 rebounds just one day after being named to the All-GLVC first team.
Palmer, a senior center from Nashville, Tenn., turned in a complete performance as he added three blocked shots and two steals to go along with his point and rebound totals. Bibbins also turned in a stellar outing as he notched nine points, five assists, four rebounds and four steals from his point guard position.
“I thought we played well overall, played great defense and rebounded well,” said senior guard/forward Dennis Gagai. “Scotty and Palmer played good; their senior lead- ership really showed. Scotty played harder than I’ve ever seen — diving all over the floor after loose balls and hitting shots he needed to hit.”
The women’s team, however, didn’t fare so well in their quarterfinal game as they were easily defeated by Wisconsin-Parkside 50-36, which was the lowest-scoring game in NKU women’s basketball history. The Norse defeated Kentucky Wesleyan Saturday afternoon by a final of 68-55.
NKU (20-9) will now have to wait and see if they are to play again, but things don’t look too good for the Norse as they were the 9th-ranked team in the Midwest Region going into the GLVC Tournament. Only eight teams will make the Midwest Regional.
“I think we played very hard (against Parkside),” said senior guard Rachel Lantry. “It is now out our hands. I am very proud of my team and all their hard work this year.”
NKU held Parkside to just seven points over the fi rst 14:24 of the game, but the Norse lead of 13-7 would quickly evaporate as the Rangers closed out the first half on a 13-0 run.The streak would hit 15-0 before NKU would score again on a Casse Mogan jumper to pull the Norse to 24-15 with 17:41 to go in the game.
Mogan ended the game with just four points, bringing her double-digit scoring streak in 28 games to a screeching halt. Brandi Rayburn, however, did all she could to keep NKU in the game as she had a team- high 14 points and gathered a game-high 13 rebounds in what could prove to be her final collegiate game.
In the win over Kentucky Wesleyan, Rayburn posted 24 points, seven rebounds and three steal performance to help the Norse extend their streak of 20-win seasons to five. NKU received another good outing from Mogan as she added 14 points, five rebounds and five assists. Stephanie Hodges also provided a spark with eight points in 23 minutes of action off the bench.
The regional pairings for both the men’s and women’s NCAA Division II tournaments will be announced Sunday, March 7.
Story by Chad Hensley