Leading by just four points with 4:12 remaining, Oakland went on an 11-0 run and defeated Northern Kentucky 85-74 Monday evening at BB&T Arena.
Against one of the best teams in the Horizon League, NKU head coach John Brannen was pleased with how his team competed.
“I was proud of our guys effort and execution,” Brannen said. “We played a team that’s really good. They and Valpo can win games in the NCAA tournament. They’re well-coached, they’re talented, they’re long and athletic.
“They’re physical, and it was a four-point game with three minutes to go.”
NKU clawed and scrapped in the second half, keeping the deficit below 10 points but unable to get closer than four.
A free throw by Drew McDonald pulled NKU within four once again, 74-70, with 4:12 remaining.
“We did everything we could to try to win the game,” Brannen said. “We just weren’t able to finish.”
Kay Felder, the Horizon League preseason player of the year, pushed the Oakland lead back to six with a pair of free throws.
A turnover and a pair of missed Norse free throws kept the margin at six. Percy Gibson scored to give Oakland a 78-70 lead with 2:50 left.
McDonald missed another jumper, then Oakland put the game away. Max Hooper, who has attempted only three-point shots all season, made a three while being fouled. His four-point play gave Oakland an 82-70 lead with 2:14 left.
Felder led Oakland with 24 points and 10 assists. Coming into Monday’s game, he was on pace to become the first player in NCAA history to lead the nation in points and assists. He was first in assists and third in points.
Hooper finished with 15 points. On the season, he has made 83 of 178 shots, all three-point attempts.
“I’m not sure we got stops if we were in the right positions sometimes,” Brannen said. “Those guys (Oakland) came to play, Coach (Greg) Kampe had them ready. They’re rolling right now.”
McDonald led NKU with a career-high 23 points and 8 rebounds. Dean Danos gave the Norse a spark off the bench with 12 points and 5 assists.
“We got great energy (off the bench),” Brannen said. “I thought Dean (Danos) was awesome. Jake Giesler gave us some good minutes while he was in. Brennen Gillis played 10 minutes and was around the ball a lot.”
On the same day Cole Murray was named Horizon League player of the week, Oakland did their best to take him away as an offensive option for the Norse. He had just two shot attempts and made both for six points.
“They locked on to Cole Murray,” Brannen said. “We weren’t able to get him free.”
Oakland (15-8, 7-3 in Horizon League) entered Monday’s game third in the NCAA in scoring (86.2 points per game), behind only The Citadel and Green Bay. A third Horizon League team, Detroit, is 11th in scoring.
“We tried every defense,” Brannen said. “I didn’t have any more defenses left.”
NKU (8-13, 4-6) continues to compete with, and at times beat, some of the best basketball teams in the Horizon League. Brannen believes it is just the beginning of what is to come at Northern Kentucky.
“I can’t tell you how excited I am about the future of this program,” Brannen said. “I just hope the people of Northern Kentucky jump on board. I’d like to see them get a little louder during the games.
“I’m one of them. I’m born and bred. This is me. I’m from Northern Kentucky, like them sitting in the stands. We will always play hard and execute to the best of our abilities. Our program is going in the right direction.”
Monday, Feb. 1, 2016
@ BB&T Arena, Highland Heights, Kentucky
Oakland 85, Northern Kentucky 74
O — 45 – 40 — 85N — 42 – 32 — 74
(85) OAKLAND (fg-3fg-ft-tp) Daniels 3-0-0-6, Hayes 3-0-7-13, Felder 6-1-11-24, Hooper 4-4-3-15, Hill-Mais 1-0-0-2, Cumberland 1-1-0-3, Gibson 3-0-0-6, Walker 4-2-6-16. TOTALS 25-8-27-85.
(74) NORTHERN KENTUCKY (fg-3fg-ft-tp) Garnett 1-0-0-2, White 5-1-0-11, Holland 3-1-2-9, Billups 1-0-4-6, Murray 2-2-0-6, Gillis 1-0-1-3, Giesler 1-0-0-2, McDonald 8-1-6-23, Danos 4-3-1-12. TOTALS 26-8-14-74.
FIELD GOALS: O 25/55 (Felder 6/13, Hooper 4/8, Walker 4/5); N 26/51 (McDonald 8/16, White 5/13, Danos 4/5)
3 POINT FIELD GOALS: O 8/18 (Hooper 4/8); N 8/14 (Danos 3/4)
FREE THROWS: O 27/30 (Felder 11/11, Hayes 7/8); N 14/22 (McDonald 6/9, Billups 4/6)
REBOUNDS: O 31 (Hayes 14, Daniels 4, Gibson 4); N 28 (McDonald 8, Billups 6)
ASSISTS: O 13 (Felder 10); N 18 (Danos 5, McDonald 4, White 3)
STEALS: O 8; N 3
BLOCKED SHOTS: O 0; N 1
TURNOVERS: O 9; N 16