The men’s basketball team started off their season with an exhibition game Saturday against the Bears of Ohio Northern University. The final score was a win for the Norse 81-76.
Though the Bears rallied late, the Norse was able to get the victory using strong defense and knocking down their free throws. Senior Jalen Billups led all scorers with 31 points. White finished second on the team with 10.
“I definitely think practice is helping me a lot,” Billups said. “Before and after practice I been getting up more shots and just trying to get more confident in the shot. I think it’s more repetition than anything.”
For new Head Coach John Brannen, it was an opportunity to work on game-like situations.
“I think overall it’s good to get out, put on the uniform and get in front of the crowd with referees,” Brannen said. “I think we got fatigued a little bit. Emotion never lasts and I think our emotion fatigued us early.”
With a new arena name, a new basketball design on the court, mixed with having NKU’s first athletic DJ in DJ Underground, a new team, and a new coach, the Norse started the game on an 11-0 run.
Freshman Brennan Gillis and Billups combined to score the first eight points of the game. Senior Tyler White added a 3-pointer from the corner to give the Norse an 11-point lead.
At the first media timeout, new NKU men’s head coach John Brannen put in a whole new lineup.The whole new lineup kept things moving with two quick baskets by senior Jake Giesler and a 3-pointer by junior Cole Murray.
With 10:09 left in the first half, the score was 16-5 Norse.
The Bears may have been down, but they were not willing to give up. After forcing a few turnovers, The Bears were able to hit a few 3-pointers and added some free throws as well.
At the 8:09 mark the score was 20-11 in favor of NKU.
Out of the timeout the Norse start to put things back in motion. After a big dunk by Billups, the Bears call a quick timeout. At the 3:38 mark the score was 26-17 Norse.
Murray showed that not only can he shoot the ball but he can also drive to the rim and create his own shot. White added two free throws after being fouled away from the basket.
Sophomore Jordan Garnett also added two free throws and senior Todd Johnson added a basket of his own. The score at halftime was 37-24 Norse
The Bears came out and knocked down a 3-pointer to start the second half. Billups gave the Norse some defense with a steal and a huge blocked shot to slow down the Bears. Billups adds a few layups at the other end followed by White scoring his own basket to make the score 47-36 Norse.
Over the next couple minutes, both teams traded baskets back and forth, but the Bears started to score a few more than the Norse cutting the Norse’s lead to six. The lowest it had been since the start of the game.
“We just weren’t solid,” Billups said.”We weren’t focused. We were just forgetting what it said on the scouting report. Little things that we need to correct and will correct.”
The Bears defense became more intense as the game progressed and so did their shooting. They soon cut the Norse’s lead to one point.
“We weren’t defending or guarding,” Brannen said. “Their kid got hot making three’s all over the place. We won but gave up 11 made threes. We stop defending the three point line. We let a good team get confidence and then they really started getting it going.”
The Norse responded with a little defense of their own slowing down the surging Bears. The crowd erupted after a huge corner 3-pointer by Johnson extending the lead back to five.
The Norse return to the court on Friday in Morgantown, W.Va. against West Virginia University. They return home 7 p.m. Nov. 17 against Tiffin University.