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GALLERY: Unselfish Norse keep Redhawks winless

Matt Sexton, Sports Editor

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Lavone Holland II (11) pulls up for a shot during Saturday's game against Southeast Missouri State.

Using outstanding ball movement against a variety of zone defenses Saturday night, the NKU men’s basketball team cruised to a 79-69 victory over Southeast Missouri State.

Northern Kentucky (3-6) had 20 assists on 28 field goals. Tyler White led the way with 7 assists.

The ball movement was critical because Southeast Missouri State played a zone defense the entire game.

“It’s hard to get in your rhythm when you’re seeing a different zone defense every time down the court,” NKU Head Coach John Brannen said. ” I was really proud of the ball movement and the way our guys were able to execute a gameplan. I was excited having 20 assists on 28 field goals”

An early run for the Norse gave them the cushion they maintained throughout the game.

A 9-0 run over 2:02 in the first half pushed a two-point NKU lead to a 20-9 lead with 13:33 left in the half.

The closest Southeast Missouri State got the rest of the first half was within six, 36-30, after a Joel Angus III layup. NKU extended the lead to 39-30 at the intermission.

NKU quickly pushed the lead to double figures early in the second half. The Redhawks got no closer than eight the rest of the way, and NKU pushed the lead to as many as 19.

Jalen Billups led the Norse with 17 points and 11 rebounds. Billups is also controlling the paint of the defensive end of the floor, which is something Brannen discussed with him.

“Coach challenged me earlier in the year to just focus on rebounding and defense,” Billups said. “He knew that I’m going to score. Once I put my focus toward that, it raised my value and actually made the team better.”

In addition, Dean Danos added 10 points, 5 rebounds and 3 assists. Danos believes the Norse have something special going at BB&T Arena where the team is 3-1 this season.

“I feel like we’ve got something going well here,” Danos said. “It’s like coach said. Every day is a grind, and we have to believe in the process. Coach challenges us with adversity every single day in practice. Every game we’ve improved in some category.

Brannen credited his bench, including Danos and Drew McDonald, for giving the Norse a spark.

“I was really excited with the play of some of the guys coming off the bench,” Brannen said. “Dean Danos, I thought he gave us great minutes. Drew McDonald is a big reason we had the lead in the first half.”

Two other Norse scored in double figures. Cole Murray finished with 12 points, while Lavone Holland II had 10.

Isiah Jones led the Redhawks with 21 points. Angus added 16. Despite the Redhawks’ record, Brannen knew it was going to be a battle.

“This game concerned me a great deal,” Brannen said. “They’re an extremely well-coached program. I knew they’d come in and have a game plan and play hard. I also knew we’d see 40 minutes of zone.”

While NKU shot a blistering 49 percent against the zone defense, the Redhawks also shot the ball well. Southeast Missouri State shot 48 percent for the game.

“I was a little disappointed in the sustainability defensively and our ability to not turn the ball over during certain spurts,” Brannen said. “Two areas that have been an Achilles’ heel for us this season, and showed up at different parts of a 40-minute game.”

The only remaining drama in the game came in the final minute. NKU got to 79 points with a Jake Giesler layup with 1:14 remaining. NKU fans received a free pizza if the Norse scored 80 or more points.

NKU had two chances to break the 80 barrier, but a turnover and a missed shot kept the score at 79. As the fans grew louder, NKU got the ball one final time. However, with the shot clock off, NKU did the sportsmanlike thing and ran out the clock.

Boos rained down at BB&T Arena – the loudest the arena had been all night long.

That noise didn’t go unnoticed. Brannen issued both an apology to those fans – and a challenge.

“I want to apologize to all the fans,” Brannen said. “We scored 79 points. I didn’t realize until the other day when I came back from the Norfolk game and I saw a lot of Domino’s Pizza boxes in the arena.

“My challenge to Norse Nation is this: The arena got really loud in the final 30 seconds. What I’d like to see is for us to be that loud for 40 minutes. If our fans can get that loud for 40 minutes, I’ll guarantee more 80-point games.”

Summary

Saturday, Dec. 19, 2015

@ BB&T Arena, Highland Heights, Kentucky

Northern Kentucky 79, Southeast Missouri State 69

S – 30 – 39 — 69
N – 39 – 40 — 79

(69) SOUTHEAST MISSOURI STATE (fg-3fg-ft-tp) Angus III 6-0-4-16, Kellum 3-0-0-6, Jones 7-3-4-21, McGill 2-0-0-4, Cleveland 6-0-1-13, Stewart 3-1-0-7, Anderson 1-0-0-2. TOTALS 28-4-9-69.

(79) NORTHERN KENTUCKY (fg-3fg-ft-tp) Garnett 2-1-1-6, Billups 6-0-5-17, White 2-1-0-5, Holland II 4-0-2-10, Murray 5-2-0-12, Cole 3-2-0-8, Giesler 1-0-0-2, McDonald 3-0-3-9, Danos 2-2-4-10. TOTALS 28-8-15-79.

FIELD GOALS: S 28/58 (Jones 7/12, Angus 6/7, Cleveland 6/13); N 28/57 (Billups 6/8, Murray 5/11, Holland 4/10)

3 POINT FIELD GOALS: S 4/10 (Jones 3/5); N 8/24 (Murray 2/7, Cole 2/3, Danos 2/4)

FREE THROWS: S 9/16 (Angus 4/4, Jones 4/6); N 15/20 (Billups 5/8, Danos 4/4, McDonald 3/4)

REBOUNDS: S 29 (McGill 6, Cleveland 6, Angus 4, Kellum 4); N 34 (Billups 11, McDonald 8, Danos 5, Murray 4)

ASSISTS: S 7 (Cleveland 3); N 20 (White 7, Holland 4, Danos 3)

STEALS: S 5 (McGill 4); N 4

BLOCKED SHOTS: S 1; N 2 (Billups 2)

TURNOVERS: S 14; N 14

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GALLERY: Unselfish Norse keep Redhawks winless