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Picked to Finish Last, Norse Are 5-5 in Conference

In their first season in NCAA Division I, the Northern Kentucky Norse have developed into quite the local sports story. Picked to finish at or near the bottom of the Atlantic Sun Conference by sports writers, the Norse improved to 5-5 against conference foes after holding off East Tennessee State Thursday.

Eshaunte Jones put up 25 points including a 4-point play on a banked-in three as time was winding down in Johnson City, Tennessee. “I did not mean to bank it in at all, but the shot clock was winding down and I had a good look,” Jones said. “The defender hit me just as I released it, and thankfully it went in.”

The Norse drained five consecutive 3-point shots early in the second half as part of an 18-7 run that turned a 31-28 deficit at the break into a 46-38 lead with 12:31 remaining in the game. Jack Flournoy knocked down a trio of 3-pointers to ignite the Norse second-half spurt.

Jones added a pair of treys during the run, including a 35-footer as the shot clock was running down that found nothing but the bottom of the net. During his last three games, Jones has averaged 25.3 points per contest and he was named the A-Sun Player of the Week on Tuesday.

“What an unreal performance by our entire team, and Jones continues to be on a roll with his shooting,” NKU head coach Dave Bezold said, noting his team shot 59.3 percent from the field in the second half. “Our second-half performance was one of the best we've had as far as shooting, and this is a great win for our program."

NKU is 7-11 overall and face South Carolina Upstate Saturday. 

Earlier this season on Jan. 5, Fred Miller scored seven points late in the second half as USC Upstate rallied for a 60-54 victory over NKU in The Bank of Kentucky Center.

NKU owned a 50-47 lead after Eshaunte Jones drained a 3-pointer with 5:55 remaining in the game. Miller countered by hitting a short jumper to pull USC Upstate within a point, butErnest Watson responded with a basket to push NKU's lead to 52-49. 

Miller then struck again for USC Upstate, burying a 3-pointer with 4:13 left to tie the game at 52-all. His layup at the 3:23 mark gave the Spartans the lead for good at 54-52, and USC Upstate held on to spoil NKU's home opener before a crowd of 2,788.

The loss also snapped a 30-year winning streak in home openers for NKU, dating back to a 68-64 setback to Hanover on Nov. 27, 1981.

USC Upstate built a 33-24 lead at intermission and quickly extended that advantage to 13 points early in the second half. 

NKU Women in Action Saturday

The NKU women also face USC Upstate Saturday taking a 7-11 (4-5 Atlantic Sun) record into Spartanburg.

NKU has a streak of 29 consecutive winning seasons, all while a member of Division II. The Norse, in their first year of Division I, need seven victories to extend that streak to 30. Since an 0-4 start, NKU has gone 7-7.

The women's game is at 2:00 p.m. and the men tip off at 5:00 p.m.