The NKU men’s basketball team cut a 15-point second half deficit to four points in the final minute, only to fall short in an 85-78 loss to Green Bay Thursday night at BB&T Arena.
It wasn’t the effort NKU Head Coach John Brannen was looking for out of his team against a tricky opponent.
“Green Bay is a difficult team to prepare for with their style of play,” NKU Head Coach John Brannen said. “I was disappointed in our overall focus and effort – that falls on my shoulders.
“I felt like we weren’t in the right mental place. We’ve got some guys that need to understand their roles a little more … particularly our upperclassmen. If we don’t get that, we’re not going to find success.”
NKU (8-14, 4-7 in Horizon League) tried to mount a furious rally in the final minutes to pull out a victory.
The Norse trailed by 10, 80-70, with 1:29 remaining. Tyler White started the comeback with a basket with 1:18 remaining.
After a Green Bay free throw, White converted a three-point play to pull the Norse within 81-75 with 1:01 left.
Once again, the Phoenix managed just one of two from the free throw line. Deontae Cole buried a three to cut the Norse deficit to four, 82-78, with 51 seconds left.
Following a missed layup by Green Bay, White had a look from in close at the other end but missed.
Jalen Billups grabbed the offensive rebound and was fouled. However, he missed both free throws. Green Bay’s Jordan Fouse knocked down a pair of free throws with 26 seconds left to halt the Norse rally.
“I thought our guys did a good job executing some late-game stuff,” Brannen said. “I thought they played with energy. We were able to get the press. We got traps and got the right guys at the foul line.”
Billups led NKU with 18 points and 12 rebounds. Lavone Holland II added 15 points and 7 assists. Drew McDonald had 12 points, while White added 11.
Green Bay (14-9, 6-4) had five players in double figures, led by Carrington Love’s 18 points. Fouse added 14 points and 10 rebounds.
The Norse had pulled even in the second half at 47 with 13:49 remaining. Green Bay answered with a 15-3 run over the next 3:30 to go back up 12.
“In order to beat them, you’ve got to be under 15 turnovers,” Brannen said. “We had 18. We just had too many turnovers. If you have 18 turnovers against a team like that, you’re not going to win.”
Northern Kentucky has played three games the top two teams in the country in turnovers forced: West Virginia and Green Bay.
“We play those teams three times,” Brannen said. “That’s not good for us. We’re just not a team that handles pressure really well.”
NKU’s stretch of five home games in six ends 7 p.m. Saturday against Milwaukee.
“This three-game homestand was against the top four teams in the league,” Brannen said. “This is not about them. This is about our process of getting better. “I didn’t think we got better (against Green Bay), which I’m extremely disappointed in.
“We’ve got to worry about NKU and putting a product on the floor that’s going to continue to get better against a program that has been in the Sweet 16 the last few years.”
Thursday, Feb. 4, 2016
@ BB&T Arena, Highland Heights, Kentucky
Green Bay 85, Northern Kentucky 78
G — 37 – 48 — 85N — 32 – 46 — 78
(85) GREEN BAY (fg-3fg-ft-tp) Small 3-0-0-6, Fouse 3-0-8-14, Love 6-2-4-18, Cooper 1-0-5-7, Lowe 4-0-4-12, Kanter 4-0-3-11, Botz 3-3-2-11, Findlay 2-0-2-6. TOTALS 26-5-28-85.
(78) NORTHERN KENTUCKY (fg-3fg-ft-tp) Garnett 1-1-0-3, White 5-0-1-11, Holland II 6-2-1-15, Billups 7-0-4-18, Murray 3-3-0-9, Cole 2-2-0-6, Gillis 0-0-1-1, McDonald 5-0-2-12, Danos 1-1-0-3. TOTALS 30-9-9-78.
FIELD GOALS: G 26/54 (Love 6/11, Lowe 4/5, Kanter 4/5); N 30/66 (Billups 7/10, Holland 6/11, White 5/15, McDonald 5/8)
3 POINT FIELD GOALS: G 5/14 (Botz 3/5, Love 2/3); N 9/27 (Murray 3/7, Holland 2/4, Cole 2/5)
FREE THROWS: G 28/36 (Fouse 8/8, Cooper 5/6); N 9/15 (Billups 4/7)
REBOUNDS: G 33 (Fouse 10, Cooper 5, Lowe 4); N 37 (Billups 12, Holland 5, McDonald 5)
ASSISTS: G 13 (Small 5, Fouse 3); N 17 (Holland 7, White 3, Johnson 3)
STEALS: G 11 (Fouse 4, Small 3); N 2
BLOCKED SHOTS: G 6 (Fouse 4, Lowe 2); N 3
TURNOVERS: G 12; N 18