Norse cruise past Quakers; head to Bahamas next week

The Northern Kentucky men’s basketball team defeated Wilmington College 93-65 Sunday afternoon in BB&T Arena. The Norse move to 2-0 on the season while the Quakers start the season 0-1.

NKU head coach John Brannen was not pleased with the way his team, particularly the starting five, played in first half.

“I thought Wilmington played harder than us in the first half,” Brannen said. “I thought they came in here and physically took it to us. (I) coached effort for the most part for most of the game instead of execution. We can’t be in the business of coaching effort. If we are going to be that we will be a mediocre team.”

Despite the lackluster first half, Brannen was happy with the way his team adjusted and responded after halftime.

“Let’s learn lessons in winning,” Brannen said. “Our guys figured it out and we made enough plays. I love that this team is coming out in the second half with punch and fire.”

The Norse were relentless on the boards, grabbing 50 rebounds while allowing Wilmington to grab just 26 rebounds. Drew McDonald grabbed 11 rebounds while junior Jeff Garrett grabbed a career high 15 rebounds, including seven offensive rebounds.

“I’m just doing whatever the team needs me to,” Garrett said. “I always talk to Drew after the games about what I’m doing or what I can do better.”

As a result, the Norse scored 23 second-chance points and 42 points in the paint. Wilmington only scored two second chance points. The Norse shot 50 percent on the night and 35.5 percent from three point range.   

Wilmington College took 12 threes in the contest but made only four of those attempts. The Quakers shot 40 percent on the day.

After a three point first half, McDonald scored 15 second half points, giving him his 18th career double-double.

“I just wanted to come out with great energy and really get the team going,” McDonald said. “The points just kind of came. I wanted to focus on the little things, rebounding, being in the right position defensively, communicating.”

Garrett contributed 13 points, another career high, giving him a double-double. Thirteen Norse saw action in this game and 11 of those players saw a shot go through the basket.

“It gives them a chance to get their feet wet,” Brannen said. “It gives me a chance to evaluate them on film based on playing in live action. It gives a chance to look at rotations. You are looking at different people on the floor together, who plays well together.”

Center Chris Vogt saw the floor for the first time in his NKU career, scoring eight points and dishing out an assist.

“He didn’t get rebound. Him and I are going to talk about that,” Brannen said. “The thing about Chris is this; he goes against the best player (McDonald) in the league everyday. There’s some scars he has after every practice. What better way to learn? He’s going to be really good.”

Andrew Russell was Wilmington’s leading scorer with 14 points while Nathan Scott scored 13 points.

The Norse will head to the Nassau next week for the Island of the Bahamas Showcase where they will play three games in three days, starting with James Madison University on Nov. 17.

NKU’s full attention will be on the first game of the tournament against James Madison, but assistant coaches will also be scouting the other six teams the Norse could potentially play during the weekend.

“I think it is the top mid-major tournament in the country,” Brannen said. “You got some really elite teams in it. I’m most excited about the fact we get an opportunity to learn more about our team.”