Norse defeat conference rival Wright State 68-64

Norse break losing streak, now 4-4 against Wright State since joining Horizon league.

Sierra Newton, Sports Editor

The NKU men’s basketball team held off Horizon league rivals Wright State 68-64. The Norse now move 4-1 in conference play and 14-4 overall. Wright State Raiders moves to 2-3 in the conference and 8-10 overall.

Senior forward Drew McDonald led the night with 22 points and 12 rebounds, achieving his 9th double-double of the season. Redshirt sophomore guard Jalen Tate follows with 19 points, 7 rebounds, and 4 assists. Junior guard Tyler Sharpe put up 14 points for the Norse with 3 assists.

“Obviously an electric crowd tonight want to start off and say how appreciative I am of our fans for coming out in droves and the white out. This is what college basketball is supposed to be and this is what college basketball in a region that loves basketball is supposed to be,” Head Coach Brannen said. “And this is what BB&T arena can oftentimes be if we continue to get people to come out and enjoy an extremely competitive Horizon League game.”

Almost 6,000 fans were in attendance to watch the win over Wright State and the crowds presence was made known throughout the evening.

The Norse start the half slow shooting 0 of 4, not hitting their first shot until 3 minutes into the game. The Raiders started the game off with a 6-2 run, after a time out the Norse began to get more into their rhythm, making more shots.

Junior forward Dantez Walton hit a shot to tie 6-6. Tate came in the game and made a big play for the Norse. As Tate went to the basket he collected a foul which sent him to the line, where he added a three point play to the scoreboard.

“I’m just trying to help the team out however I could, you know. Things you see coming off the bench a little bit, you know you see their coverage and some and I know their bigs like the press up a little bit. It’s hard to leave this big guy [McDonald], you know, shooting threes the way he does, so it opens up a lot of lanes for us guards, you know what I mean? Stuff like that I’m just taking what the defense is giving me.”

The Norse weren’t able to keep a solid lead and fell behind by four with a minute left. Sharpe got fouled and got the chance to lower the deficit, he sinks one free throw to bring the score to 27. NKU ended the half down by 3, 27-30.

In the first half they had that look on their face like it was last year’s game, couldn’t  get our rhythm, never could get going,” Brannen said. “I challenged them to stay with it that you know Wright state was not going to break it’s just not what they do.”

The game became more of a “tit for tat” with the largest lead being four points and the score tied a total of 7 times in the first half. In the paint the Raiders out scored the Norse 24-12, eight of those 24 coming from forward Loudon Love.

I just knew my defensive job was just to make it hard on him[Love]. Just be physical with him, limit his catches and if he catches it, to get him off his spots,” McDonald said. “And he’s going to get his, any good player’s gonna get his, it’s just my job to make it hard on him. And I just need to do my job for these guards.”

The Raiders came right out of the gate in the second half and scored but McDonald answered right back with a three pointer. The Black & Gold got a few defensive stops, which allowed them to obtain the lead. The Norse went on an 11-0 run, which brought the score to 44-39 with 13 minutes left in NKUs favor.

The Norse got the largest lead of the game of 8 points with 9 minutes left in play. Redshirt freshman guard Paul Djoko received a technical and the Raiders put the two points up. Wright state took the opportunity and ran with it the teams tied again, 56-56 with 5 minutes left.

Tate came down the court and got a layup not allowing that to remain the case. McDonald created a defensive stop, the Norse execute and freshman guard Trevon Faulkner put them back up by four, 60-56 with 3:32 left in the game.

The Raiders tied the game with the Norse two more times. With just under two minutes left McDonald put up a layup and the crowd gets involved. Sharpe grabbed a steal on defense and called a timeout, the arena erupts with excitement. Sharpe was then fouled with 2 seconds left on the clock, he made one of the two free throws, ending the game, 68-64.”

“We felt like we were playing solid defense, we thought we were making it very tough on them, we were struggling to make shots early, we didn’t get a good flow on offense. Coach Brannen told us to win the game, ‘coming in we knew we were going to have to play 40 minutes.’” Sharpe said. “And so going back out there it was the same game plan we had before and just sticking with it for 40 minutes having faith that it was going to pay off and it did.”

The Norse are now tied for first place in the Horizon League standings with Detroit Mercy. The Norse go on to Cleveland State to face the Vikings on Thursday, Jan. 17. The ball goes up at 7 p.m. and will be broadcast on ESPN+.