Norse earn 20th win of the season


The NKU men’s basketball team recorded win number 20 on the season Friday night, defeating Horizon League foe UIC at BB&T Arena. The Norse now stand at 11-6 in Horizon League play and 20-10 overall.

“I was really proud of our guys for finishing at the end,” Head coach John Brannen said.

Offensively, the Norse were led by sophomore Drew McDonald, who had 27 points and nine rebounds. Mason Faulkner, Lavone Holland II, and Cole Murray were all in double-digits as well. Faulkner also added three steals on the defensive side of the ball.

The Norse started slowly, shooting just 36 percent through the first eight minutes of play. UIC drove the lane and were converting inside on the Norse, scoring ten of their first 20 points in the paint.

At the halfway point in the first half, NKU trailed UIC by seven points. Faulkner buried a jumper, followed by a UIC turnover, and the Norse were quickly back within one point after two consecutive Faulkner buckets.

“When Mason comes with energy and focus he’s outstanding,” Brannen said. “He is a gifted shot-maker from all parts of the floor, he just has to find a way to consistently defend.”

The teams traded blows in the final minutes of the first half. At halftime, the Flames led the Norse 37-36.

NKU shot 42 percent in the first half, compared to UIC’s 52 percent. UIC also had an advantage on the glass, grabbing eight more rebounds than NKU. UIC had 13 turnovers in the first half, compared to NKUs five. The Norse capitalized, scoring 11 points off of UIC turnovers.

The second half was much like the end of the first, with each team trading baskets through the first ten minutes.

The Norse leaned heavily on McDonald and Murray the entire second half. Both of them contributed from beyond-the-arc, and on the glass. Along with that, both McDonald and Murray were perfect from the free throw line.

“When your teammates have confidence in you, they are looking for you and trying to get you the ball and know that you’re hot, that’s a great feeling,” McDonald said. “It’s a different one of us every night. When someone’s hot we like to get them the ball no matter who it is.”

NKU finished the game shooting 46 percent, the Norse also shot 85 percent from the free throw line. UIC only turned the ball over one time in the second half, had 54 points in the paint, and led for 22 of the games 40 minutes, but NKU still found a way to win.

“We haven’t defended the way we need to defend,” Brannen said. “But we made plays at the end.”

The Norse have one game remaining before the Horizon League tournament in Detroit. The Norse will take on league-leading Valparaiso on Sunday Feb. 26, a 1 p.m. tip-off at BB&T Arena. The game will be available to watch on ESPN3.