NKU ended their two-game losing streak in thrilling fashion on Homecoming Night, beating the Milwaukee Panthers by a score of 75-71.
It was their first win against Milwaukee in school history, after losing to the Panthers in their first meeting this season by 10. The Norse improved to 9-14 on the season and 6-7 in Horizon League play while the Panthers dropped to 15-9 on the season and 6-5 in the Horizon League.
“This was a great win for us,” said Cole Murray, NKU junior guard. “
After being down 13 in the first half and down 11 midway through the second half, NKU began to fight their way back into the game, cutting the lead to two with seven minutes to go.
“It was all about stringing stops together and then our offense would take care of itself,” Murray said.
After fighting off another run by the Panthers, the Norse took the lead for the first time on a Todd Johnson three with 6:19 left.
NKU took the lead for good on a Jalen Billups layup with 3:12 remaining. Billups finished the game with 20 points, scoring 12 of those points in the second half.
The Panthers clawed their way back to a one-point deficit with 34 seconds left, but Tyler White hit the final 3-point shot to seal the game with 9 seconds left.
“I was just thinking thank god,” White said. “I had a pretty bad shooting night but coach told me to just keep shooting and I had the confidence to knock it down.”
The Norse struggled in the first half to contain JJ Panoske and the Horizon League’s fourth-ranked Panther offense. The Panthers forward had 11 points in the first half while the rest of the Panthers hit 7 threes, which helped the Panthers gain a seven-point advantage by halftime.
“We were fortunate to only be down seven at the half,” NKU Head Coach John Brannen said. “I was very disappointed by our fight in the first half.”
The Norse responded in the second half, forcing the Panthers into 15 turnovers and only 43 percent shooting from the field in the half.
“We weren’t playing intense enough in the first half,” White said. “In the second half, we played much better defense and we wanted it more.”
White, who finished the game with 11 points, scored his 1,000th point as a member of the Norse basketball team in the first half of the game.
“It’s a great accomplishment,” White said, “It’s something I have dreamed about for a long time.”
With only six games left in the season, this was an important win for the Norse who are looking for momentum heading into the Horizon League tournament.
“If we play like this every time we play, we can beat anyone in this conference,” Billups said.
Brannen hopes a win in front of the homecoming crowd will get people excited about the rest of the season and the program going forward.
“It was a great environment,” Brannen said. “That energy put our guys over the top. It’s an environment I want to have every night and I want to replicate it as we build this program.”
The Norse will begin a two-game road trip Thursday when they head north to face the Valparaiso Crusaders, who are currently the number one team in the Horizon League.
Saturday, Feb. 6, 2016
@ BB&T Arena, Highland Heights, Kentucky
Northern Kentucky 75, Milwaukee 71
M — 39 – 32 — 71
N — 32 -43 — 75
(71) MILWAUKEE (fg-3fg-ft-tp) Panoske 9-3-0-21, Tiby 4-2-0-10, Arians 4-1-0-9, Johnson 5-1-2-13, Springs 3-1-0-7, Wichmann 3-2-0-8, Lyle 1-1-0-3. TOTALS 29-11-2-71.
(75) NORTHERN KENTUCKY (fg-3fg-ft-tp) Garnett 2-0-0-4, Billups 8-0-4-20, White 4-2-0-10, Holland II 5-1-1-12, Murray 5-5-0-15, Johnson 2-2-0-6, McDonald 2-1-3-8. TOTALS 28-11-8-75.
FIELD GOALS: M 29/61 (Panoske 9/11, Johnson 5/10, Tiby 4/13, Arians 4/9); N 28/61 (Billups 8/14, Holland 5/7, Murray 5/7)
3 POINT FIELD GOALS: M 11/23 (Panoske 3/4, Tiby 2/4); N 11/22 (Murray 5/7)
FREE THROWS: M 2/3; N 8/11 (Billups 4/4)
REBOUNDS: M 35 (Arians 9, Panoske 8, Tiby 7, Johnson 5); N 31 (McDonald 8, Billups 6, White 5)
ASSISTS: M 20 (Johnson 10, Panoske 4); N 17 (White 6, Holland 4)
STEALS: M 2; N 6
BLOCKED SHOTS: M 1; N 3
TURNOVERS: M 15; N 8