HIGHLAND HEIGHTS, Kentucky — The most veteran team in NCAA basketball taught a hard lesson to one of the youngest Saturday night at BB&T Arena.
Two prolonged scoring droughts, combined with an outstanding individual performance, were too much for the NKU men’s basketball team to overcome Saturday night in an 82-74 loss to North Carolina Central University.
The first run came with the Norse leading 29-24 with 6:30 left in the first half. The Eagles (3-2) went on a 20-0 run that continued into the start of the second half.
“I think it was the story of the game, to be honest,” NKU sophomore Drew McDonald said. “What won them the game was they were able to sustain their runs, and we couldn’t sustain our runs.”
NKU (3-3) cut the deficit down to 4, 55-51, with 10:00 left in the second half. NC Central would go on an 11-0 run over the next 3:08 to take a 66-51 advantage.
The Norse would cut the deficit to five in the final minutes but could get no closer.
According to the basketball statistics site Kenpom.com, NCCU is the most veteran team in NCAA Division I. Out of 344 teams, NKU ranks 323rd in age. NKU head coach John Brannen said that difference showed.
“(NC Central) is a championship-caliber team that has been to multiple NCAA tournaments,” Brannen said. “They played like a veteran team. We would make our run. They would just relax, calmly get into their stuff, put us in position where we couldn’t stop them.”
Patrick Cole was a one-man wrecking crew for the Eagles. He finished two assists shy of a triple-double. Cole scored 32 points, pulled down 10 rebounds and had 8 assists.
Cole set a career-high in points. He previously had 30 against Savannah State Jan. 16, 2016.
NC Central shot 50.8 percent from the floor, compared to 41.3 percent for NKU.
“Disappointing part for me was, I thought our defense failed us a little bit,” Brannen said. “That’s the first time in the entire season.”
After impressive wins last weekend over Delaware and Miami University, NKU junior guard Lavone Holland II thought the Norse had become a bit comfortable in their success.
“I wish we could have fought a little harder,” Holland said. “Honestly, I think we got a little bit too comfortable winning two in a row. The daily habits in practice, we didn’t do them with the intensity and enthusiasm that we normally do. I feel like that was a big part of why we performed the way we did.”
McDonald said what the freshman have seen so far this year will help the team once conference play arrives.
“There is six of them. We’re going to need them to step up and play a big part on this team,” McDonald said. “We’ve been put in every situation possible this year. They’ve seen close games, they’ve seen blowouts, they’ve seen teams come back, they’ve seen us come back.
“They’ve seen everything being thrown at them all at one time. Once conference play comes around they won’t be freshmen anymore. They’ll be sophomores or juniors.”
Holland and McDonald each had 20 points to lead the Norse. McDonald said each time the Norse would trim the lead in the second half, NC Central had an answer.
“Once the crowd got into it, which was great – big crowd … we started getting on a roll,” McDonald said. “They would hit a big three or hit a big dunk, and it just quieted all down. It was that big bucket that came two or three times.”
NKU will head back on the road this week. They will travel to Morehead State for a 7 p.m. Wednesday showdown. There will be no TV broadcast. The game will be on 550-AM.
Saturday, Nov. 26, 2016
at BB&T Arena, Highland Heights, Kentucky
NC Central 82, Northern Kentucky 74
NCC — 42 – 40 — 82
NKU — 29 – 45 — 74
(82) NORTH CAROLINA CENTRAL (fg-3fg-ft-tp) Madison 1-1-0-3, Dickerson 1-0-0-2, Graf 7-0-2-16, Cole 11-2-8-32, Ranson 4-0-0-8, Wiggins 1-0-0-2, Rivas 5-1-0-11, Trapps 3-2-0-8. TOTALS 33-6-10-82.
(74) NORTHERN KENTUCKY (fg-3fg-ft-tp) Garrett 1-0-0-2, Tate 1-0-1-3, Williams 2-0-2-6, Holland II 6-3-5-20, McDonald 8-2-2-20, Spellman 2-2-0-6, Gillis 1-0-0-2, Murray 3-3-0-9, Walton 2-2-0-6. TOTALS 26-12-10-74.
FIELD GOALS: NCC 33/65 (Cole 11/26, Graf 7/14, Rivas 5/7); NKU 26/63 (McDonald 8/17, Holland 6/12, Murray 3/8)
3 POINT FIELD GOALS: NCC 6/15 (Cole 2/4, Trapps 2/2); NKU 12/32 (Holland 3/7, Murray 3/8)
FREE THROWS: NCC 10/12 (Cole 8/10); NKU 10/21 (Holland 5/9)
REBOUNDS: NCC 41 (Cole 10, Trapps 8, Rivas 7, Dickerson 7); NKU 39 (McDonald 11, Williams 4)
ASSISTS: NCC 12 (Cole 8); NKU 14 (Spellman 5, Holland 3)
STEALS: NCC 3; NKU 6
BLOCKED SHOTS: NCC 2; NKU 5 (Holland 2)
TURNOVERS: NCC 7; NKU 8