The NKU men’s basketball team opened up their season with an exhibition win over Thomas More University at BB&T Arena on Tuesday night. Thomas More shot 30 percent from the field, while the Norse shot 66 percent.
Senior Drew McDonald led the team with 14 points and nine rebounds, while freshman guard Bryant Mocaby made a great first impression as a Norse with 11 points, sinking three shots from behind the line. Graduate student Zaynah Robinson led the team in assists with seven.
The Norse had a defensive heavy focus in the first half by full court pressing the majority of the period. The Norse were able to convert 19 points off of the Saints 11 turnovers in the first half.
“That’s the style of play we’re gonna play this year,” McDonald said. “We have the athleticism and the length to do so, and that’s something we’ve really been emphasizing, is inflicting our style of play on the opponent and having them wear down. So, yeah I’d expect to see more of that this year.”
The Norse also had some great looks inside and around the perimeter due to their ball movement, 26 assists were given to one another for the game.
“Because we’re not a break down team, we have to move the ball,” head coach John Brannen said. “So, we really put a huge emphasis on moving the basketball. Plus we have a culture of passing, our guys like passing and they enjoy passing to each other.”
McDonald ended the half with 12 points and six rebounds, while junior forward Dantez Walton finished with seven points, one assist and one steal.
Brannen focused on being stronger defensively in the second half by holding the Saints to 22 points.
“Defensively we got stronger in the second half,” Brannen said. “Last year’s numbers reflected the exact opposite, so I was excited that our style of play wore them down a little bit and caused their shooting percentage to be a little bit lower.”
Eleven of the Norse were able to play at least ten minutes or more in this game.
“That was intentional and I will evaluate that on film and look at some things at practice and we’ll evaluate,” Brannen said. “So, we’ll put some different guys on the floor as the season goes on to find out where we’re at so we can play our best basketball late in the season.”
Forty six of the Norse points came from inside the paint where they were 24 for 24, opposed to their opponents who were 12 of 40 inside the arc.
“Have we done that once before? I wouldn’t count on it.” Brannen said.
McDonald added, “finishing drills, getting to the rim and converting when we get there” in practice for that flawless showcase from 2-point range.
The Norse shot at 37.9 percent at three point range, while Thomas More shot 27.8 percent for the game. The bench provided 33 points as opposed to the Saints whose bench added three points for a total score of 84-47.
Next up, NKU starts regular season play against Wilmington College on Tuesday, Nov. 2. Tip off is scheduled for 7 p.m. from BB&T Arena and will be broadcast on ESPN+.