Going dancing: Norse defeat Wright State in Horizon Championship
Norse secure March Madness bid, win second league championship since entering Division I
March 12, 2019
NKU men’s basketball team are the 2019 Horizon League Men’s Basketball Champions after a 77-66 win over the Wright State Raiders at Detroit’s Little Caesars Arena.
NKU’s postseason continues with a record of 26-8, and they end conference play with a record of 14-5. The Raiders season ended with an overall record of 21-13 and 13-6 in the conference.
Five players on the NKU men’s basketball team scored double-digits for the game, led by redshirt sophomore Jalen Tate with 17 points and 5 rebounds. Junior forward Dantez Walton and grad student Zaynah Robinson had 15 points apiece. Senior forward Drew McDonald added 13 points and 8 rebounds. Sharpe rounded out the top scorers with 11 points, 2-of-4 from behind the arc.
March Madness at stake
The Norse came ready to play. Tate opened the game with a three-point basket. The Norse took a 10-2 run to put them up 13-4 early in the game. Robinson pulled up a three from the top of the key to bring the Norse to 21 points. The Raiders answered back to bring the score to 21-10.
McDonald gained his second foul with 5:36 minutes left in play. Redshirt sophomore forward Silas Adheke subbed in and scored a putback for two points to bring the score to 40-24. With under 1:00 left in the half, the Norse gained an offensive possession and Robinson laid it in for two. The Raiders junior guard Cole Gentry was able to sink a three-pointer with 0:07 seconds left. The Norse went into the half up 44-34.
“Starting off in the first half was a great feeling,” Tate said. “Just knowing that we could get [defensive] stops.The way we work, it could obviously translate to the offense … shots were going in.”
The Norse continued the defensive hustle and keep Wright State under 44 percent from the field for the half. NKU gained the largest lead of the half with 18 points. Robinson’s shooting was perfect from the field and behind the arc with 11 points. The Norse shot 70 percent from the three-point line and held the Raiders to 30 percent.
“We came out with intense energy we made everything hard on them,” Sharpe said. “I thought we took very good shots and I thought we got the ball moving a lot. Which when we do that we’re tough to stop offensively and so that lead right into Z [Zaynah] coming off the bench and giving us a quick spark.”
McDonald opened up the second half for the Norse with a layup and a trip to the line to bring the score to 47-35. Tate had a big block on defense that turned into an offensive possession where McDonald drained a three-pointer. With under 15:00 minutes left of play, Tyler Sharpe hit a three-point bucket to put the Norse up 53-37.
Freshman guard Trevon Faulkner made a basket with 3:20 left in play. He got fouled but did not convert the free throw. With 1:58 left in the game, Wright State fouled Tate sending him to the line to hit one. With 15 seconds left the Norse sealed the win of 77-66.
The Black and Gold ended the game shooting 50.9 percent from the field and 57.1 percent from behind the arc, while holding the Raiders to 37.5 percent from the field and 29.2 percent from the three-point line. NKU had 11 assists on the night where the Raiders only had 3.
‘We’re not done yet’
Selection Sunday is March 17 at 6 p.m., when the Norse will figure out who, when and where they play in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
This will be their second appearance at the Big Dance. In 2017, in the school’s first NCAA tourney appearance of the Division I era, NKU fell to University of Kentucky 79-70.
But this time, McDonald said, it’s less of a “gift” and more of an “opportunity” to earn a March Madness win, which would be the first in team history.
“We’re going to enjoy it but we’re going to get right back to work here soon,” McDonald said. “We’re not done yet. We have more to accomplish and we’ve been there once. And the only way to build on it – we like to build on our program – is to win one game then win two and then play the second weekend and keep going forward.”