Faulkner’s career day helps Norse end losing streak

Christopher Decker, Sports Editor

The NKU men’s basketball broke their three game losing streak Sunday afternoon, beating Detroit Mercy 101-87. The Norse improve to 13-8 on the season and 4-4 in the Horizon League while Detroit Mercy falls to 4-16 and 2-6 in the Horizon League.

“I’m proud of all our guys,” head coach John Brannen said. “We just need to put more minutes of playing well together and the wins will take care of themselves.”

The Norse capitalized on Detroit’s foul trouble in the second half. The Titans had 7 teams fouls before the 15 minute mark, allowing the Norse to shoot free throws almost the entire second half. The Norse capitalized,  going 35-42 from the charity stripe.

Those made free throws was the most in a single game for made free throws in a game. The previous record was set in 2014, when they made 31 against Kennesaw State. 

“We knew they fouled a lot and they were going to apply pressure,” sophomore center Drew McDonald said. “It hurt us the last couple games and we kept seeing them going in and it was nice to see.” 

Mason Faulkner was the greatest beneficiary, making 11-14 free throws on his way to a career high 29 points. Faulkner was 8-12 from the field and also grabbed six rebounds.

“It was just a good feeling to know I could do it and coach having faith in my and my teammates having faith in me,” Faulkner said. “Most importantly we got the win.”

Faulkner’s minutes have increase since the start of the season, mostly coming off the bench to give his counterpart Lavone Holland II a rest. Faulkner has taken advantage of those minutes, averaging 7.3 points per game with four double digit scoring efforts.

“Mason’s a great talent, dynamic talent, fun personality. He’s going to be a big part of what we are doing moving forward,” Brannen said. 

Tonight Faulkner and Holland II were on the court together for most of the game, which was the first time Brannen had done it for an extended period of time this season due to the Titan full court press. Holland scored 17 points and seven assists alongside Faulkner’s 29 points.

“He (Holland) had six turnovers, but those turnovers didn’t stop him from playing a great game defensively and offensively,” Brannen said.

McDonald followed with 21 points and five rebounds while Carson Williams finished with 13 points and 10 rebounds, recording his third double-double of the season.

Chris Jenkins led Detroit scorers with 20 points and nine rebounds, but was limited in the second half because of foul trouble. Josh McFolley finished with 16 points and dished out five assists for the Titans.

The Norse struggled to pull away from the Titans in the first half, mostly due to the full court pressure the Titans were using in the half. Still the Norse managed to shoot 44 percent in the half while the Titans shot 42 percent. 

“Both teams were a little sluggish in the beginning,” Brannen said. “I think they came out with great defensive intensity and we came out with great defensive plays.”

With five minute left in the first half, Brannen was telling his team to “outlast” the Detroit offense late in the shot clock. 

“We want to outlast the offense,” Brannen said. “If you can take away the first 12 second of the shot clock, we have the advantage defensively. That’s what I was preaching because we hadn’t been very good at it.”

The Norse ended the first half with a 41-36 lead.

The Detroit ball pressure forced NKU into turnovers early in the second half, which brought the Titans within two points before the first media timeout. However, the fouls added up and NKU exploded for 60 points in the second half.  

“We just came out and attacked the basket,” Faulkner said. “Not everyone was hitting from the outside so we attacked the basket and got foul calls and hit free throws.”

Garnett a mainstay in the Norse lineup

After coming off the bench much of the non-conference half of the Norse season, junior forward Jordan Garnett has become a consistent starter for the Norse in conference play. 

While he only averages 4.2 points per game, Garnett has 30 assists on the season and has been an excellent defender for the Norse. He has also shown explosive offensive flashes, including several thunderous dunks in conference play.

“He’s invaluable,” Brannen said. “His assist/turnover ratio is positive. He consistently defends the other team’s best player. He accepts his role. He takes what the other team gives him.”

Garnett has been more effective helping other teammates around him and putting them in the right positions to score.

“I just sacrifice everything for my teammates because I know what I do helps us win,” Garnett said. “What I do doesn’t show up in the box score.”

Garnett says he has been more confident this season and allowing the game to come to him.

“I’m not thinking as much,” Garnett said. “Last season I thought too much. I was really timid. This year I’m feeling more comfortable with my brothers on the floor.”

Road Trip awaits the Norse

The Norse will embark on a three game road trip following tonight’s win, starting with UIC Friday Jan. 27 at 7 p.m., before facing Valparaiso on Jan. 29. Valparaiso currently sits as the number one team in the Horizon League. The Norse will then face Wright State Feb. 4.