GALLERY: Second half surge gives Norse men first win, 83-71

Matt Sexton, Sports Editor

Jalen Billups scored 19 of his game-high 22 points in the second half Tuesday night as the NKU men’s basketball team rallied to defeat Tiffin University 83-71 in its home opener at BB&T Arena.

With the victory, NKU evens its record at 1-1. Tiffin falls to 1-2 with the defeat.

“Obviously, it was a tale of two halves,” NKU head coach John Brannen said. “I thought we came out surprisingly tentative. Part of it was we weren’t aggressive enough defensively. I probably should have put a little more full-court pressure in the first half.”

NKU trailed much of the first half. Tiffin took a 35-29 lead into the locker room.

Tiffin was able to maintain that lead early in the second half. The Dragons led by five, 48-43, with 12:46 left.

The Norse turned up the intensity and overwhelmed Tiffin.

An 11-0 run over the next 2:56 propelled NKU to only its second lead of the game. It started with a Cole Murray three. Jalen Billups made three of four from the line, followed by a Matt Rosenwinkel three.

Billups then brought his team and the Norse fans out of their seats with a thunderous dunk. NKU led 54-48 with 9:50 remaining.

“Any way I can help my team pick it up and turn it to another level, I’ll do it,” Billups said. “I guess that dunk helped a lot. Luckily I didn’t fall.”

Tiffin went on a spurt of its own, trying to keep itself in the game. A 9-5 stretch allowed the Dragons to pull within two, 59-57, with 6:42 remaining.

NKU would not allow them to get any closer. The Norse put the game away with a 10-2 run over the next 2:33 to extend the advantage to 69-59 with 4:09 remaining.

“In the second half, I thought we made some adjustments,” Brannen said. “I thought some guys really stepped up. We were outstanding in the second half.”

Lavone Holland II had an interesting night. He made just 1 of 11 from the floor but nearly picked up his first career triple-double. He finished with 10 points, 12 rebounds and 9 assists.

“It’s always the same story,” Holland said. “Get pretty close (to a triple-double), but I can’t seem to get over the hump.”

Holland said the team had to make an adjustment after its first half performance.

“For the whole team, just picking up our intensity,” Holland said. “Playing defense harder, crashing the glass more. And really just staying with it, even if we weren’t playing as well as we wanted to.”

After scoring just three points in the first half, Billups exploded for 19 in the second after making a halftime adjustment.

“I just changed my mindset,” Billups said. “I know I struggled in the first half, just frustrated myself. Coach made an emphasis just to free my mind. Just play free and play hard, and that’s what I did in the second half.”

Cole Murray was the second leading scorer for the Norse with 18 points.

Khaleal McCormick led the Dragons with 20 points and 7 rebounds.

For Brannen, while he was pleased with the outcome, he continues to stress the process to his team.

“One of the things … our team hears from me on a consistent basis is, it’s not about results right now,” Brannen said. “It’s about the process of getting better. I thought our young men did that over the course of a 40-minute game. So we accomplished our goal for this game.”


@BB&T Arena, Highland Heights, Ky.

Northern Kentucky 83, Tiffin 71

T – 35 – 36 — 71
N – 29 – 54 — 83

(71) TIFFIN (fg-3fg-ft-tp) Marsden 3-0-1-7, McCormick 7-3-3-20, Mabins 3-0-5-11, Johnson 2-1-0-5, Imami 1-0-0-2, Brown 3-0-3-9, Kynard 4-2-0-10, Bachman 3-1-0-7. TOTALS 26-7-12-71.

(83) NORTHERN KENTUCKY (fg-3fg-ft-tp) Garnett 2-0-1-5, Billups 7-0-8-22, White 2-0-0-4, Holland II 1-0-8-10, Murray 7-4-0-18, Gillis 2-1-0-5, Giesler 0-0-1-1, Rosenwinkel 1-1-2-5, Johnson 1-0-0-2, McDonald 3-0-3-9, Danos 0-0-2-2. TOTALS 26-6-25-83.

FIELD GOALS: T 26/63 (McCormick 7/17, Kynard 4/11, Marsden 3/7, Mabins 3/6, Brown 3/7, Bachman 3/7); N 26/59 (Billups 7/10, Murray 7/12, McDonald 3/6)

3 POINT FIELD GOALS: T 7/19 (McCormick 3/5, Kynard 2/5); N 6/18 (Murray 4/7)

FREE THROWS: T 12/20 (Mabins 5/7, Brown 3/4, McCormick 3/7); N 25/33 (Billups 8/10, Holland II 8/11, McDonald 3/4)

REBOUNDS: T 38 (McCormick 7, Marsden 4, Sutherlin 3); N 36 (Holland II 12, Billups 5, Murray 3, McDonald 3)

ASSISTS: T 10 (Brown 4, Kynard 4); N 19 (Holland II 9, White 4, Johnson 3, Murray 2)

STEALS: T 2; N 4 (Murray 2)

BLOCKED SHOTS: T 7 (Marsden 2, Rage 2); N 7 (Billups 3)