The Northern Kentucky men’s basketball team won its Horizon League conference opener Saturday afternoon against the Milwaukee Panthers 74-64 at BB&T Arena. Senior guard Tyler Sharpe led the Norse with 31 points, including six 3-pointers. This game was Sharpe’s third consecutive 30 point performance. Sharpe also converted all five of his attempts from the charity stripe. Sophomore forward Adrian Nelson was the game’s leading rebounder pulling in 12 boards. Nelson was one point short of a double-double, with nine points.
“I think earlier in the year I was just getting hounded defensively, nobody was letting me get good looks, and I forced a couple of shots here and there or I would settle,” Sharpe said. “I just stayed the course, I kept getting in the gym with the coaches, I tuned up a few things with my jump shot, and I came out with the mentality of getting in the paint and making plays for other guys and getting in a rhythm that way.”
Northern Kentucky started the game on a 7-0 run and never let Milwaukee lead at any point in the game. “I think today was a great job out of the gate,” Sharpe said. “Defensively, coming out and getting stops and making it tough on their guys and then offensively we stayed the course.”
Milwaukee went on a 7-0 run of their own to tie the game up. The Panthers would continue a series of pushbacks, as they tied the game two more times in the first half, but the Norse were able to finish off the half on a 15-8 run taking a 31-24 lead to the locker room.
The second half was the same story as the first, with Milwaukee making runs at the Norse, but NKU would successfully countered those runs. The Norse did not let the Panthers get closer than four points in the second half. With the score 57-53 in favor of the Norse at the 4:31 mark, NKU would outscore Milwaukee 17-11 for the remainder of the ballgame.
Nelson took advantage of being in the starting lineup this afternoon as he was a big help for the Norse on the boards.
“My mindset hasn’t really changed [being in the starting lineup], I am just continuing to play hard and sticking to what I know I am best at,” Nelson said. “The coaches have been on me throughout the week about grabbing the rebound. I know I am one of the team’s best rebounders so I know I have to be the best in that category when it comes to playing in the game.”
Head Coach Darrin Horn was very pleased with the preparation leading up to the conference opener.
“I thought our staff did an unbelievable job preparing our guys for this game,” Horn said. “A big part of it was just effort and toughness, and doing a better job on the glass.”
Next up for the Norse, is a matchup with the Phoenix of Green Bay. This game will take place on Monday, Dec. 30 at BB&T Arena. Tip is scheduled for 7 p.m. and will be broadcast on ESPN+.