NKU loses home streak against Cleveland State

NKU still leads all-time series at 5-4, despite the loss.

The NKU men’s basketball team dropped to number two in the Horizon League as number 10 Cleveland State spoiled their home winning streak in a 77-83 match. The Norse are now 11-5, and the Vikings remain in last place with a 4-11 conference record.

Despite the loss, senior forward Drew McDonald ended the night with 22 points, 7 rebounds and 6 assists. Redshirt sophomore Jalen Tate had 19 points and 3 assists and junior forward Dantez Walton contributed 12 points to the board. Freshman forward Adrian Nelson provided sparks throughout the game and had a career-high of 8 rebounds.

Before tipoff, McDonald and graduate student guard Zaynah Robinson were honored with a frame of their jersey in celebration of Senior Night. Once the ball was tipped, the game started off close, but the Norse took a 7-0 run to take the lead with 9 minutes to go in the first half. The Vikings did not let that last long and fought their way back into the lead at halftime, with a score of 34-36. In the first half alone the game tied seven times and the lead changed a total of three times.

For the half, the Norse shot 44 percent from the field and only 18 percent from behind the arc, while the Vikings shot 45 percent from the field and made 33 percent from three.

“We didn’t play with enough energy on defense and put enough emphasis on it,” McDonald said. “We weren’t making the right rotations, we weren’t locked in as well as we need to be.”

In the beginning of the second half, NKU fought their way back into the lead with a score of 49-43. Cleveland State rallied back once again with a 7-0 run, but the Norse came back with a 7-0 run of their own to come out ahead 58-56 with 9:08 to play. Cleveland State went on yet another 9-0 run, which put them in the lead with 66-58. The Norse never regained the lead after that and ended the game 77-83.

“Right now it’s a little disappointing,” McDonald said. “Losing on any game is disappointing but losing on your last one and not being able to play like I wanted to because my back flared up and it was hurting me; but just the crowd’s support was fantastic and I appreciate it and it’s been going great all year.”

NKU committed 21 fouls allowing the Vikings to make 14-of-20 at the free throw line. The Vikings scored 11 points from the 15 turnovers NKU committed. The Norse out-rebounded Cleveland State 37-32 and scored 20 points from fast breaks compared to the Vikings’ 12.

NKU shot 43 percent from the field for and 25 percent from the three. Cleveland State finished with 50 percent from the field and 37.5 percent from three.

“An extremely disappointing loss for us, somewhere we’ve lost our edge,” Head Coach John Brannen said. “We’ve been turning the ball over a lot in the guard position lately Drew with three and Tate with five. [Tate] can’t stay out of foul trouble. He gets two offensive fouls a game and you only get five so him being in foul trouble has handicapped us significantly lately.”

Up next, the Norse travel away to take on the Milwaukee Panthers on Thursday, Feb. 28. Tip off is set for 8 p.m. and will be broadcasted on ESPN+.