The Northern Kentucky University men’s basketball team saw their season end when they fell to Bellarmine University in the semifinals of the NCAA Midwest Regional.
The Knights built an 18-point lead in the second half, and held on for an 87-82 victory March 16 in Louisville, Ky.
Junior guard Jon Van Hoose and senior guard Josh Tabb scored 21 points each to lead the Norse. Senior guard Malcolm Eleby chipped in 11 points, but NKU’s bid to upset the second-ranked Knights fell short.
Bellarmine, who had four players score in double figures, were led by senior guard Justin Benedetti who scored 21 points.
With the loss in the NCAA tournament, NKU finished with a 21-9 record, including 12-6 in conference play. They earned the fifth seed in the GLVC Tournament. This seed allows them to host the first-round game against the eighth-seeded Quincy Hawks at the Bank of Kentucky Center. The Norse won the Feb. 26 game, 75-70, advancing to the quarterfinals to face the Kentucky Wesleyan College Panthers.
The Norse lost a heartbreaker, 91-89. The Panthers rallied from a four-point deficit in the final 21 seconds. With 1.4 seconds remaining, NKU called a timeout they did not have, allowing the Panthers to connect on two technical free throws for the victory.
The Norse earned the fourth seed in the Midwest Regional and earned the opportunity to play the Panthers for the fourth time this year. They got their revenge for the GLVC tournament loss by winning in dramatic fashion. Junior guard Tony Rack hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer in overtime to help the Norse earn the 76-74 victory on March 12. Rack finished the game with eight points, while Tabb and Eleby led the team with 23 points apiece. Their season ended a day later, with the loss to the Knights.
The Norse was led on the year by transfers. Eleby, a Saint Bonaventure transfer, led NKU in scoring (12.8), rebounding (6.1) and assists (4.5). He finished the season in the GLVC as the seventh-leading assist man and the eighth-leading rebounder. Tabb, a transfer from Tennessee, averaged 12.0 points on the year. Both players were All-Great Lakes Valley Conference third team selections. Junior forward Bobby Shannon chipped in 10.0 points per game.
The Norse finished the year in the upper-half of the conference in both offense and defense. They finished with the fourth highest field goal percentage (.486), while having the third best scoring defense (67.6).
Story by John Minor