Men’s basketball off to quick start, but tough road awaits

With a little over half of the 2010-11 season in the books, the Northern Kentucky University men’s basketball team has positioned themselves to make a postseason run. However, with five games left against teams ranked in the top ten of the NABC/Division II Coaches Poll, the Norse have their work cut out for them.

The Norse have a balanced offensive attack as four players are averaging in double figures in scoring. Senior guard Malcolm Eleby, a transfer from Saint Bonaventure, leads the team averaging 13.7 points per game. Senior guard Josh Tabb and senior forward Chris Knight average 12.0 and 10.0 points per game respectively while junior forward Bobby Shannon is adding 10.3 points per game.

“We are very balanced and willing to share the basketball,” said Head Coach David Bezold.

The Norse have used hot shooting behind the arc to get off to a good start as they have four guards, senior Dennis Gagai, juniors Tony Rack and Jon Van Hoose and sophomore Ethan Faulkner, shooting over 40 percent from three-point range. This has resulted in NKU leading the conference in three-point shooting percentage.

The team has also been good on the defensive side as they lead the conference as a team in scoring defense holding opponents to 63.5 points per game and field goal percentage defense, allowing opponents to only make 40.3 percent of their shots.

“We have very good perimeter defenders,” Bezold said. “Our assistants do a good job of scouting the other team and our kids do a good job implementing the game plan.”

The Norse have gotten off to a good start, charging to a 11-3 record overall, including an impressive 16-point win on Nov. 27 against regional foe Grand Valley State, who was at the time ranked fourth in the nation, giving NKU a marquee win this season.

The Norse currently boast a 4-2 record in Great Lakes Valley Conference play, but still find themselves in fourth place in the East Division. The Norse have plenty of games left to gain ground. All 12 regular season games remaining on their schedule are against teams in their conference, including six games against teams in their division.

Remaining for the Norse are two games, each against the fourth ranked Bellarmine Scarlett Knights and the seventh-ranked Kentucky Wesleyan Panthers. They also will travel to take on the eighth-ranked Southern Indiana Screaming Eagles and the Indianapolis Greyhounds.

“Our remaining schedule is very difficult as we are in the best division with all the teams capable of making deep runs in the NCAA tournament,” Bezold said. “I expect us to keep on getting better.”

Nick Jones contributed to this story.

Story by John Minor