NKU falls short in bid for third straight Horizon League Tournament title, falling to Oakland in semifinals
Norse end the 2020-21 season with 69-58 loss
March 9, 2021
The Northern Kentucky men’s basketball team, winners of the previous two Horizon League Tournament championships, were denied in their quest for a three-peat on Monday night, falling to the Oakland Golden Grizzlies 69-58 in the Horizon League Tournament semifinals.
Junior guard Trevon Faulkner, the team’s leading scorer at 16.3 points per game entering Monday, led the way for the Norse, scoring 26 points on 9-22 from the field. Junior guard Bryson Langdon chipped in 14 points while dishing out a team-high six assists. Junior forward Adrian Nelson grabbed a team-leading 14 rebounds.
An inability to get the ball in the basket defined the first half for NKU, as the Norse made just five of their first 20 shot attempts, and 12-35 for the first half. Surprisingly, standout freshman guard Marques Warrick struggled to get into a shooting rhythm throughout the semifinal contest, scoring just eight points, with five of those coming in the first half.
As a team, the Norse shot just 2-14 from three in the first half, which highlighted one of the key weaknesses of this Norse team all season long: an inability to consistently knock down the triple. Entering Monday’s game, the Norse were shooting just 31.0 percent from three, which ranked near the bottom in Division I.
As a result of that poor shooting, the Norse entered halftime trailing 31-26 and were never able to sustain a rally to climb back into the contest.
The Golden Grizzlies were led offensively by forward Daniel Oladapo, who piled up 19 points and nine rebounds in the winning effort. Oladapo and the Golden Grizzlies were successful at cutting through the NKU zone, collecting 34 of their 69 points in the paint on Monday.
Oakland was also able to find a lot of success on the perimeter with their backcourt duo of Rashad Williams and Jalen Moore, who combined for 31 points, while Moore added seven assists.
The Golden Grizzlies did struggle mightily from the free-throw line, shooting an abysmal 10-26 from the charity stripe, including 8-20 in the second half, which enabled the Norse to hang around, despite their own offensive troubles.
With just under three minutes remaining in the second half, Langdon canned a three-pointer to trim the lead to 10. Then, after an Oladapo layup on the other end, Faulkner was able to roll in an and-one layup, getting the Norse within single-digits, but it was too little too late, as the Golden Grizzlies sank their final five free-throws to seal the victory.
With the loss, NKU’s pandemic-afflicted 2020-21 season comes to an end, as the Norse finished the season 14-11. The Golden Grizzlies will move onto the Horizon League Tournament championship game on Tuesday night, meeting the top-seeded Cleveland State Vikings for the opportunity to earn the Horizon League’s automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament, which will begin next week.