Norse extinguish Flames ahead of matchup with Oakland

The NKU men’s basketball team defeated UIC in convincing fashion Saturday night, 86-51. The Norse improve to 9-5 on the season and begin Horizon League play 2-0. UIC falls to 5-10 and 0-2 in Horizon League play.

“I was really excited about the performance of our young men tonight,” NKU head coach John Brannen said. “I’d also like to single out our two captains, Drew McDonald and Lavone Holland for making sure our team was ready mentally and emotionally to come out and compete right away.”

It was all Norse in this game, as NKU shot 50 percent from the field and 71 percent from three in the first half. The Flames managed to shoot just 25 percent in the first half and missed all seven of their threes in the half.

“Great effort defensively to hold down a really good basketball team to that shooting percentage early in the game,” Brannen said. 

Three Norse, Lavone Holland, Drew McDonald and Mason Faulkner reached double digits in points before the five minute mark in the first half. The Norse benefited from 18 points from their bench in the first half. 

As time expired in the first half, Drew McDonald hit a fade away jumper to put the Norse up 49-16 heading into the locker room. 

Brannen’s one thought as he entered the locker room was the leads the Norse had given up during the season and reminded his guys to stay focused coming out of the break.

“A lot of times you have a let down,” Brannen said. “Our guys did the exact opposite. I thought they really pushed forward and fought and tried to extend the lead.”

The second half was much of the same, as the NKU lead ballooned to over 40 at times in the second half. Jordan Garnett threw down a monstrous dunk with just over 13 minutes left in the final period.  

Overall, the Norse finished shooting nearly 43 percent from the field and 47.6 percent from downtown while the Flames managed to just shoot 35 percent in the game and made only two threes.

NKU also outrebounded the Flames 46-34 and grabbed 12 offensive rebounds, turning them into 17 second chance points. 

Drew McDonald recorded his fourth straight double double, scoring 19 points and grabbing 12 rebounds. Faulkner finished with 15 points and three assists off the bench.

“(I try to) have a clear mind and just go out there and play for my brothers,” Faulkner said. 

Holland scored 12 points, dished out five assists and grabbed seven rebounds and is now nine points away from exceeding the 1,000 career point. 

“I really don’t pay too much attention to it,” Holland said. “He (McDonald) reminds me more than I think about it.”

The team as a whole dished out 22 assists while the Flames only recorded six. 

Marcus Ottey was the only Flame with double digit points with 15. Michael Diggins scored nine points, including a nice dunk over Jeff Garrett in the second half. 

The Norse will now prepare for Horizon League favorite Oakland. Oakland is currently 9-6 in the Horizon League and 1-1 in conference play. NKU and Oakland were tied at the top of the Horizon League preseason polls. 

“We’ll enjoy this win tonight and move on and start next week,” McDonald said.

The game will be broadcasted on ESPN2 on Friday Jan. 5. Tip off is scheduled for 9 p.m..