Dressed in Santa Claus red uniforms, IU Kokomo delivered the perfect gift for the NKU men’s basketball team prior to the holiday break.
NKU dominated IU Kokomo from start to finish Wednesday night, cruising to an 88-44 victory at BB&T Arena.
NKU Head Coach John Brannen cautioned his team not to have a let down in the last game before a few days off.
“All coaches will tell you, this time of year, the day before Christmas break is always a challenge,” Brannen said. “You worry about their minds moving toward going home to spend time with their family and not locking into the things that they need to do.
“I really challenged the guys … and I’m really proud of the way they responded and their focus and energy into getting better.”
NKU shot 62 percent in the first half and raced out to a 49-24 halftime advantage. Northern Kentucky held IU Kokomo to 37 percent shooting in the first half and 31.5 percent for the game.
“Defensively is where it needs to start for us,” Brannen said. “That’s the area we can make the most headway in. I thought our guys did a great job of that.”
The Norse (4-6) got 37 points from its bench as 12 different players played and all but one scored.
“I thought the bench … they didn’t have a let down either,” Brannen said. “We had a chance to get some guys quality minutes. I think they earned those minutes through their production on the court.”
Brannen was pleased his team responded to the challenge of playing hard for 40 minutes the day before the break. He said it’s been a common theme this year.
“Outside of two or three times, when we’ve challenged them on certain things, they’re responded,” Brannen said. “That builds trust with the coaching staff and the team, and the team with each other. I thought that was the main factor in the game, no question.”
Tyler White led the Norse with 18 points and 4 assists. Despite have a bit of a rough patch shooting the ball, White appreciated his teammates’ continued confidence in him.
“As of late, I haven’t been shooting that well,” White said. “My team still shows a lot of confidence in me from my past performances. They just did the same thing they did all year. They found me in some open spots and I was able to make some of the shots that I had.”
Drew McDonald was one rebound shy of a double-double, finishing with 13 points and 9 rebounds. McDonald said Brannen challenged him to take control of the boards.
“They went zone in the second half,” McDonald said. “So our goal as a big (player) was to occupy a body. Coach challenged me earlier in the year that I needed to be a better rebounder. I was a great rebounder .. I was my high school’s all-time leader. He knows that.”
Beau Dedmond led IU Kokomo with 10 points.
NKU has one non-league game remaining – a game at Toledo 7 p.m. Dec. 30. before opening Horizon League play Jan. 2 at home against Green Bay.
Wednesday, Dec. 23, 2015
@ BB&T Arena, Northern Kentucky University
Northern Kentucky 88, Indiana University-Kokomo 44
K – 24 – 20 — 44N – 49 – 39 — 88
(44) IU KOKOMO (fg-3fg-ft-tp) Vanliew 1-0-0-2, Pier 4-0-0-8, Burton 1-0-0-2, Teeter 2-2-0-6, Smith 3-0-1-7, Dedmond 3-2-2-10, Kelly 1-1-0-3, Calhoun 2-0-2-6. TOTALS 17-5-5-44.
(88) NORTHERN KENTUCKY (fg-3fg-ft-tp) Garnett 2-1-2-7, Billups 3-0-2-8, White 7-3-1-18, Holland II 3-2-0-8, Murray 4-2-0-10, Cole 2-1-0-5, Gillis 2-1-0-5, Giesler 2-0-1-5, Rosenwinkel 1-1-0-3, McDonald 5-0-3-13, Danos 2-2-0-6. TOTALS 33-13-9-88.
FIELD GOALS: K 17/54 (Pier 4/9, Smith 3/8, Dedmond 3/7); N 33/61 (White 7/12, McDonald 5/9, Murray 4/8, Billups 3/5, Holland 3/6)
3 POINT FIELD GOALS: K 5/24 (Teeter 2/8, Dedmond 2/5); N 13/29 (White 3/7, Holland 2/3, Murray 2/6, Danos 2/2)
FREE THROWS: K 5/8; N 9/13 (McDonald 3/3)
REBOUNDS: K 26 (Smith 4, Kelly 4, Vanliew 3, Hurt 3, Dedmond 3); N 42 (McDonald 9, Holland 8, Billups 3, Murray 3, Gillis 3)
ASSISTS: K 11 (Hurt 4, Teeter 3); N 24 (Danos 5, Cole 4, White 4, Holland 3)
STEALS: K 7 (Dedmond 2, Kelly 2); N 12 (White 4, Holland 2, Gillis 2, Giesler 2)
BLOCKED SHOTS: K 0; N 3 (Gillis 2, Billups 1)
TURNOVERS: K 16; N 12