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Brannen Named Horizon League's Coach of the Year; 2 Norse Also Honored

The Northern Kentucky men's basketball team won three awards from the Horizon League this week ahead of the conference tournament in Detroit.

Head Coach John Brannen was named Coach of the Year, while sophomore Drew McDonald was named to the first-team all-conference, and freshman Carson Williams was named to the conference's all-freshmen team.

NKU is 21-10 on the season and its 12-6 record in the Horizon League scored the Norse a tie for third place. The Norse face Wright State on Sunday in the Horizon League quarterfinals in Detroit.

Brannen is in his second year as head coach, and helped guide Northern Kentucky in a remarkable turn around from last year's 9-21 campaign. NKU is eligible for the NCAA Tournament for the first time this season, and the team is well-positioned to make a run at the Horizon's automatic berth. NKU's 12-win turnaround from last season is second only to Minnesota's 14-win turnaround.

McDonald averages 16.5 points and 7.6 rebound per game. The Newport Central Catholic grad scored 10 double-doubles this season, the second-most in the League, behind Horizon player of the year Alec Peters of Valparaiso.

Williams earned a spot on the all-freshman team after starting all but one game this season (senior day), averaging 10.6 points and 5.9 rebounds per game and shooting 59.3 percent from the floor. Williams, a native of Owenton, collected a Horizon League-best four Freshman of the Week honors, including the final two of the season.

NKU reached unprecedented heights this season. The 21 wins are a Division I-era record for the Norse and helped Northern Kentucky climb up to No. 102 in Monday’s NCAA RPI release. And, the Norse are peaking at the right time, winning nine of their last 11 games headed into postseason play.

As the No. 4 seed in the 2017 Horizon League Men’s Basketball Championship, Northern Kentucky will face off against No. 5 seed Wright State in the opening round at 7:30 p.m. at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit.

-Staff report

Photo: John Brannen (via Twitter)