OXFORD, Ohio — The NKU men’s basketball team showed flashes of its talent Friday combined with some of the frustrations of its youth.
For 28 minutes, the Norse ran its offense with near perfection, getting open looks all over the floor. They stifled Austin Peay on the defensive end of the floor.
However, the more veteran team rallied over the game’s final 12 minutes, as Austin Peay turned a 16-point deficit into a 77-69 victory over Northern Kentucky at Miami University.
NKU (1-2) led 48-32 with 12:00, but the Governors (2-1) rallied to hand the Norse their second straight loss.
The Norse led for almost all of the game’s first 37 minutes. Austin Peay’s John Murry made two free throws with 2:22 left to give the Governors their first lead of the game at 67-66.
It was a lead Austin Peay would not relinquish, finishing the game on an 18-3 run over the final 4:09. NKU missed all 10 field goal attempts during that run.
Drew McDonald, who led the Norse with 21 points and 12 rebounds, said the locker room was stunned with how the game finished.
“It hurts. Sitting in that locker room after the game, we had 14 players, coaches, staff and managers who were all silent,” McDonald said. “We were hurt. We were up 16. We were in complete control.”
The Norse held the reigning Ohio Valley Conference tournament champions to just 38.5 percent shooting the first half.
“We held them to 27 points in the first half,” McDonald said. “We were scoring. We were getting any shot we wanted. They start hitting a couple shots. Number 4 got off, he started hitting a couple shots and that got their whole team going.
Number 4 for Austin Peay is Josh Robinson, who led all scorers with 31 points.
“We’re dealing with a veteran team in Austin Peay,” NKU Head Coach John Brannen said. “They’re a championship-caliber team that really got it going. They’ve got an alpha-dog in Robinson who made everything at the end.”
McDonald believes the young Norse can learn from the veteran Governors.
“They won a championship last year, and that’s what championship teams do,” McDonald said. “Being a young team, we can learn from this. We can learn from them because we want to become a championship team ourselves.”
Brannen saw a drop in play on the defensive effort which led to the Governors’ comeback.
“They went on a run that we weren’t able to stop,” Brannen said. “This disappointing part was that we stopped defending. When they got it going, we couldn’t get stops, then we stopped scoring.”
Friday’s loss is part of the learning process for a Norse team that has 10 sophomores and freshmen.
“The thing for our team is how we handle adversity,” Brannen said. “We’ve got one of the youngest teams in the country. How do we handle adverse situations? We learned today that we didn’t handle it very well. So this is an opportunity to grow if we take advantage of it.”
NKU will take the floor again 1:30 p.m. Saturday in the second game of the Tarkett Sports Classic against Delaware. McDonald is glad they will be back on the floor less than 24 hours after Friday’s tough loss.
“That’s the good thing about a tournament is that we get to play (Saturday),” McDonald said. “We get to come back together and play Delaware. We get to fight adversity. We’re going to go through it throughout the year. We’re a young team.
“Hopefully this can be a stepping stone to where we want to be in the future.”
Friday, Nov. 18, 2016
at Millett Hall, Miami University, Oxford, Ohio
Austin Peay 77, Northern Kentucky 69
A — 27 – 50 — 77
N — 35 – 34 — 69
(77) AUSTIN PEAY (fg-3fg-ft-tp) Savage 2-1-0-5, Porter-Bunton 1-0-0-2, Robinson 11-6-3-31, Jones 5-1-2-13, Diop 1-0-0-2, Harris 0-0-2-2, Clayton 1-0-1-3, Murry 4-1-10-19. TOTALS 25-9-18-77.
(69) NORTHERN KENTUCKY (fg-3fg-ft-tp) Garrett 4-0-1-9, Tate 2-0-0-4, Williams 6-0-1-13, McDonald 8-0-5-21, Holland II 4-1-0-9, Maxwell 2-1-1-, Gillis 1-0-0-2, Walton 1-1-2-5. TOTALS 28-3-10-69.
FIELD GOALS: A 25/52 (Robinson 11/16, Jones 5/8, Murry 4/10); N 28/70 (McDonald 8/17, Williams 6/8, Garrett 4/13, Holland 4/14)
3 POINT FIELD GOALS: A 9/18 (Robinson 6/9); N 3/21
FREE THROWS: A 18/26 (Murry 10/12); N 10/18 (McDonald 5/5)
REBOUNDS: A 33 (Jones 11, Murry 7, Robinson 5); N 44 (McDonald 12, Garrett 10, Williams 7)
ASSISTS: A 9 (Robinson 3); N 15 (Holland 6, Tate 3)
STEALS: A 3; N 8 (Tate 2, Williams 2, Holland 2)
BLOCKED SHOTS: A 2; N 3 (Garrett 2)
TURNOVERS: A 12; N 15