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Northern Kentucky Beats League's Top Team in Regular Season Finale

The Northern Kentucky Norse made a statement on Sunday afternoon, holding on for a hard-fought win against Valparaiso, the top team in the Horizon League.

NKU finishes the regular season in third place in the Horizon, at 21-10 overall and 12-6 in the conference. The Norse head into the upcoming conference tournament - where the team could earn its first-ever bid to the NCAA Tournament - with a three-game winning streak.

At BB&T Arena on Sunday, seniors Cole Murray, Matt Rosenwinkel and Dean Danos were honored in a pre-game ceremony. And then the team got to work. Drew McDonald converted 8-of-13 field goal attempts and made all six free throws en route to a team-high 23 points. Lavone Holland II added 17 points and 9 assists. Carson Williams was the beneficiary of multiple Holland assists. He was 5-of-7 from the floor and 7-of-7 at the charity stripe in his 17-point effort.

Though the game was close, Valparaiso, which was playing without its top scorer and the league's player of the year, only led once - at the 12:39 mark of the second half. 

Northern Kentucky led 40-37 at intermission thanks to blistering shooting on offensive. NKU shot 64 percent (14-of-22) from the floor, despite just shooting 14.3 percent (1-of-7) from three.  Valpo converted just 44 percent (12-of-27) in the first half.

The Norse continued their torrid shooting in the second half, making 52 percent (12-of-23) from the floor and 58 percent (7-of-12) from three.

Though NKU has its first shot at a bid to the NCAA Tournament since transitioning to Division I, Head Coach John Brannen said that fans should not lose sight of what happened in the regular season.

"For this gorup, this young group to finsish at 12-6 is a testament to them, the type of men, they are, how much they care about the school and how competitive they are," he said. "We didn't win a regular season title but we put ourselves in a  position to and going 12-6 needs to be recognized."

Senior Cole Murray expressed gratitude for the crowd. "That was the best way to go out I could have imagined," he said. Beating Valpo was important, he said, for the team's confidence heading into the post-season. "We felt like we needed to knock them off going into the tournament."

The Horizon League men's and women's tournaments start on Friday. NKU will play its first game on Sunday, March 5.

Women's team falls to Green Bay

Northern Kentucky fell to the League leader and top seed for the Horizon League Championship, dropping a 74-37 decision to Green Bay. With the setback, NKU ends the regular season at 9-21 and 5-13 in League play, while the Phoenix advance to 24-5 (15-3 HL). With the League slate ended, the Norse have earned the No. 7 seed for Motor City Madness and will play No. 10 seed UIC at noon on Friday, March 3.

Prior to the game, NKU honored its four seniors: Shar’Rae Davis, Sarah Kinch, Rebecca Lyttle and Kelley Wiegman.

-Staff report