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Faulkner hits career high as Norse blast Penguins

Matt Sexton, Editor-in-Chief

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Drew McDonald (34) drives around a defender during Thursday's win over Youngstown State.

HIGHLAND HEIGHTS, Kentucky — The young NKU men’s basketball team continues to play like a veteran squad.

A team laden with freshmen and sophomores, the Norse players seem to take turns taking over basketball games.

On Thursday, it was freshman Mason Faulkner’s turn.

Faulkner scored a career-high 24 points Thursday night, as the NKU men’s basketball team cruised to an 83-70 win over Youngstown State.

“I was really proud of the focus and energy of our group,” NKU head coach John Brannen said. “I made mention to our guys that I hadn’t thought we played particularly well for an entire game or for extended minutes since Eastern Washington.”

For the game, Faulkner made 10 of 16 from the floor. He also had five rebounds and four assists. He was one of four Norse in double figures in scoring.

“When somebody is going off, our team is going to find them,” Faulkner said. “Whether it’s the veterans or a freshman like me, we’re going to get us the ball.”

Faulkner is the fifth different Norse play to lead the team in scoring in a game this season.

“I feel like our team is ‘pick your poison,'” McDonald said. “One night it could be Cole Murray, it could be Mason tonight, it could be me the next night or Lavone Holland. We have plenty of options, which makes us so hard to guard.

“You’ve got to hope that all eight, nine, 10 guys have an off-night. That really doesn’t happen too often.”

Brannen hopes the depth in scoring will make off-nights overall fewer and farther between.

“Hopefully it’s a sign of a team that’s got a chance of being able to withstand some guys who don’t play particularly well on a certain night,” Brannen said. “Mason was dynamic with making plays in transition and scoring. He was fun to watch.”

Northern Kentucky (11-5 overall, 2-1 in the Horizon League) surged ahead with a 17-2 run in the first half.

With the game tied at 18 with 7:55 left in the first half, the Norse would allow Youngstown State just one field goal the rest of the half.

“That run in the first half really helped,” Drew McDonald said. “Mason hit a three and Jordan (Garnett) got that dunk and that really got us going.”

NKU would continue to expand the lead in the second half. The Norse led by as many as 24 before a late Youngstown State run would cut into the final margin.

McDonald had another double-double, scoring 15 points and pulling down 15 rebounds. Carson Williams had 12 points, while Lavone Holland II scored 11.

Northern Kentucky shot 51.6 percent from the floor (32 of 62) while holding Youngstown State to 40 percent shooting (26 of 65).

Despite the snowy weather, a solid crowd turned out to cheer on the Norse, who were coming off of a loss at Oakland.

“We wanted to come back in front of our home crowd and get rebooted,” McDonald said. “We cleaned some things up in practice and worked on some fine details.”

NKU returns to action at 1 p.m. Saturday against Cleveland State at BB&T Arena. Despite their record, it is a team and a coach that Brannen respects.

“They have an outstanding basketball team and a coach in Gary Watters, who I don’t know if there is a guy that I respect more in the profession than him,” Brannen said. “It will be a real challenge for us.”

SUMMARY

Thursday, Jan. 5, 2017

at BB&T Arena, Highland Heights, Kentucky

Northern Kentucky 83, Youngstown State 70

Y — 20 – 50 — 70
N — 35 – 48 — 83

(70) YOUNGSTOWN STATE (fg-3fg-ft-tp) Donlan 1-1-2-5, Frantz 3-1-3-10, Santiago 5-0-1-11, Morse 4-0-5-13, Kaufman 3-0-0-6, Hartfield 4-0-0-8, Haygood 5-0-1-11, Ferguson 0-0-2-2, Strollo 1-0-0-2, Davis 0-0-2-2. TOTALS 26-2-16-70.

(83) NORTHERN KENTUCKY (fg-3fg-ft-tp) Garnett 2-1-0-5, Williams 4-0-4-12, Murray 3-2-0-8, Holland II 5-0-1-11, McDonald 6-1-2-15, Garrett 1-1-0-3, Faulkner 9-3-3-24, Cobbs 1-0-0-2, Gillis 1-1-0-3. TOTALS 32-9-10-83.

FIELD GOALS: Y 26/65 (Santiago 5/10, Haygood 5/8, Hartfield 4/6, Morse 4/14); N 32/62 (Faulkner 10/16, McDonald 6/15, Holland 5/10)

3 POINT FIELD GOALS: Y 2/15; N 9/26 (Faulkner 3/8, Murray 2/3)

FREE THROWS: Y 16/21 (Morse 5/6); N 10/17 (Williams 4/4, Faulkner 3/3)

REBOUNDS: Y 33 (Santiago 9, Donlan 5, Kaufman 4); N 41 (McDonald 15, Holland 6, Faulkner 5)

ASSISTS: Y 14 (Santiago 5); N 17 (Holland 4, Faulkner 4, Garnett 3)

STEALS: Y 5; N 7 (Garnett 3)

BLOCKED SHOTS: Y 1; N 3 (McDonald 2)

TURNOVERS: Y 13; N 18

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Faulkner hits career high as Norse blast Penguins