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Norse pick up first conference win, beat Kennesaw State

NKU+player+Jalen+Billups+drives+to+the+net+against+UT+Martin+in+the+second+half+of+NKU%27s+56-71+loss.+NKU+lost+to+UT+Martin+56-71+at+The+Bank+of+Kentucky+Center+on+December+3%2C+2014.
NKU player Jalen Billups drives to the net against UT Martin in the second half of NKU's 56-71 loss. NKU lost to UT Martin 56-71 at The Bank of Kentucky Center on December 3, 2014.

NKU player Jalen Billups drives to the net against UT Martin in the second half of NKU's 56-71 loss. NKU lost to UT Martin 56-71 at The Bank of Kentucky Center on December 3, 2014.

Kody Kahle

Kody Kahle

NKU player Jalen Billups drives to the net against UT Martin in the second half of NKU's 56-71 loss. NKU lost to UT Martin 56-71 at The Bank of Kentucky Center on December 3, 2014.

Clayton Castle, Sports Editor

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The NKU men’s basketball team picked up its first Atlantic Sun Conference win of the season on Wednesday night, defeating the Kennesaw State Owls 76-72 in a close, physical game at The Bank of Kentucky Center in front of 1,547 fans.

“You want to get the first conference win, especially at home,” NKU Head Coach Dave Bezold said. “Again, our guys found a way to get a win.”

The sentiment of getting that first conference win at home is shared among the team as well.

“We’re very happy,” Jalen Billups said. “After a four-game losing streak, it’s good to come back and get a win.”

Chad Jackson, who limited his play in the past two games due to injury, started and played the entire game, leading the Norse in scoring with 19 points.

“It felt good to get back out there and get my rhythm back,” Chad Jackson said. “To get back on the court and running up and down the court, I feel good. I feel pretty comfortable with where I am right now.”

“I thought he (C. Jackson) was really aggressive, he’d been really good in practice,” Bezold said. “I think he’s back to being comfortable after what happened to him against Toledo.”

Bezold said Jackson was cleared to play the day of the Lipscomb game, but was hesitant to play him because he hadn’t practiced in five days.

“But being down by as many as we were, he got to go out there and not worry about anything,” Bezold said. “It was beneficial for tonight’s game.”

The Norse had three players in double-figures. Along with Chad Jackson, Billups had 16 points and Jordan Jackson added 10 points.

“I’m always happy to put my imprint on the game,” Billups said.

Kennesaw State started the game firing on all cylinders, taking an early 10-5 lead after a pair of three-pointers and layups.

The Norse responded when Jordan Jackson and Billups led a 9-0 run to help NKU take the 14-10 lead, which they would not lose for the rest of the game.

Similar to the Toledo game, the game got close at the end. Despite NKU having the largest lead of the game at the 16:54 mark in the second half, the Owls came within four points multiple times in the final minutes.

The first time was with 55 seconds left in the game, when the Owls’ Delbert Love’s three-pointer took the score to 73-69.

Coming out of the timeout taken by Kennesaw State, Chad Jackson drew up for the jump shot that hit off the rim, which was then rebounded by Willy Kouassi of the Owls.

The Owls could not convert the rebound into points, however. After NKU’s Anthony Monaco picked up the rebound of Nigel Pruitt’s missed three-pointer, Kennesaw State fouled to send Monaco to the line, which sealed the win for the Norse.

NKU (7-10, 1-1 in A-Sun) led for 34 minutes and unlike the Toledo game, closed the game with the score in their favor.

The Norse will next head to Spartanburg, South Carolina, where they will take on USC Upstate. The win tonight gives the team confidence going into Saturday’s matchup against one of the top teams in the Atlantic Sun.

“It’s a confidence booster,” Billups said. “We were down after that four-game losing streak. Just getting the win here at home then going down to a good Upstate team will be good. We’ll be fine.”

NKU returns to The Bank of Kentucky Center on Jan. 22, when North Florida visits for a 7:00 p.m. conference matchup.

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Norse pick up first conference win, beat Kennesaw State