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GALLERY: Valiant Norse effort comes up short at Xavier

Matt Sexton, Sports Editor

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CINCINNATI, Ohio – In its first meeting against Xavier since joining Division I, the NKU Norse were hardly intimidated Monday night at Cintas Center.

In the end, the Musketeers had too much firepower and pulled away late for a 78-66 win over NKU.

Xavier (4-0), ranked 23 in the new Associated Press poll, was playing the Norse (1-3) for the first time since Jan. 6, 1979.

NKU led only once in the game, thanks to a Tyler White three in the first minute of the contest. The Norse led 3-2.

Despite only leading once, NKU hung around throughout the entire contest, never letting the Musketeers get too comfortable.

“I thought our young men competed,” NKU head coach John Brannen said. “I wanted to make sure we competed. Then I was hoping we’d follow the game plan. Our focus was to keep them out of transition, keep them off the offensive glass as best we could, and then defend without fouling.

“Obviously we didn’t defend without fouling.”

Two stats stood out during the contest. Xavier attempted 15 more free throws, making 13 more. Also, the Musketeers outrebounded the Norse 45-34, including 12-5 on the offensive glass. However, NKU only gave up 7 second-chance points.

The Norse got within nine with 2:12 remaining, but could get no closer.

The effort put forth by the Norse was not only praised by their head coach, but by Xavier head coach Chris Mack.

“I want to give NKU a lot of credit,” Mack said. “Their kids came in and competed. They played hard. I wish I could say the same for our team.”

Mack was furious with his team’s effort, just three nights after an impressive road win at Michigan.

“The whole game, for 40 minutes – that was frustrating,” Mack said. “Our energy level, our effort. It was completely embarrassing … unacceptable.”

While continuing to praise the effort of the Norse, Mack’s frustration level increased while talking about his own team’s performance.

“I’ve known John for a long time,” Mack said. “He’s an excellent coach. His team was prepared on a one-day turnaround. My team was unprepared on a one-day turnaround.

“When I say it’s not about Xs and Os, I’m not trying to deflect the blame. I’m the leader of our ship, and our ship sucked tonight.”

White had a monster game for the Norse, finishing with 25 points.

“I met with Tyler individually this week,” Brannen said. “The thing I told Tyler was, ‘You’re too good of a player to tie your success to making shots.’ I think even if he wouldn’t have shot the ball well, he would have played well. It was his best defensive night, and the ball went in.”

Trevon Bluiett had his second career double-double for the Musketeers, scoring 14 points and pulling down a career-high 16 rebounds.

Brannen believes his team took another step forward against the Musketeers.

“We were outmanned in a lot of different matchups,” Brannen said. “That’s not going to be the last game that this happens. We’ve got to be great in controlling controllables, which is our ability to compete, our ability to buy into each other and trust the process and trust the roles that they’ve been given.”

The task for Brannen and his team is to take Monday’s effort and build on it.

“We took a step forward in that area,” Brannen said. “The challenge I gave to them when I left the locker room was we’ve got five practices to get better in that process. Now you’ve got a stretch of games coming up where if you do that you can find some success.”

Summary

Monday, Nov. 23, 2015

@ Cintas Center, Cincinnati, Ohio

Xavier 78, Northern Kentucky 66

(66) NORTHERN KENTUCKY (fg-3fg-ft-tp) White 7-3-8-25, Cole 2-1-0-5, Holland II 4-2-1-11, Billups 3-0-2-8, Murray 1-1-0-3, Gillis 1-1-1-4, Giesler 2-0-0-4, Johnson 1-1-0-3, McDonald 1-0-1-3. TOTALS 22-9-13-66.

(78) XAVIER (fg-3fg-ft-tp) Reynolds 3-1-4-11, Sumner 3-1-5-12, Bluiett 5-2-2-14, Abell 3-0-6-12, Davis 4-2-2-12, Austin Jr. 1-0-0-2, Farr 4-0-5-13, Macura 0-0-2-2. TOTALS 23-6-26-78.

FIELD GOALS: N 22/57 (White 7/16, Holland 4/14, Billups 3/7); X 23/59 (Bluiett 5/15, Davis 4/9, Reynolds 3/9, Sumner 3/7, Abell 3/5)

3 POINT FIELD GOALS: N 9/22 (White 3/9, Holland 2/4); X 6/20 (Bluiett 2/5, Davis 2/5)

FREE THROWS: N 13/19 (White 8/9); X 26/34 (Abell 6/7, Sumner 5/8, Farr 5/5)

REBOUNDS: N 34 (Holland 8, Murray 5, Billups 4, Giesler 4); X 45 (Bluiett 16, Farr 8, Reynolds 6, Sumner 5)

ASSISTS: N 15 (Holland 5, White 4); X 16 (Bluiett 5)

STEALS: N 4; X 6

BLOCKED SHOTS: N 6 (Billups 3, Murray 2); X 3

TURNOVERS: N 11; X 10

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GALLERY: Valiant Norse effort comes up short at Xavier