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Norse Win On Road at Kennesaw State

Chad Jackson scored 17 points and grabbed five rebounds to lead Northern Kentucky to a 64-54 win at Kennesaw State on Thursday night, giving Norse head coach Dave Bezold his 170th career victory.

Ethan Faulkner finished with 14 points – all in the second half - and converted 10 free throws late in the game as Northern Kentucky improved to 9-14 overall, 7-8 in the Atlantic Sun Conference. The Norse also made sure Bezold reached the 170-win milestone quicker than any previous Northern Kentucky mentor.

Retired Norse head coach Ken Shields recorded his 170th win during his 10th season. Bezold is in his ninth year as Northern Kentucky's head coach.

“We came out with a great deal of energy and did a good job of defending Kennesaw State,” Bezold said. “The guys executed offensively, and we had a lot of layups in the first half because of some very good decision-making. It was a very good win, and it came on the road against a team that is capable of beating you if you aren't ready.”

Northern Kentucky picked apart the Kennesaw State defense in the first half for layup after layup, most of those in half-court sets, to build a 26-19 lead at the break. John Staley converted a pair of baskets to begin the game for the Norse, and the freshman forward had scored a career-high six points by halftime.

The Norse owned a 26-14 advantage late in the half, but the Owls netted two free throws and a buzzer-beating 3-pointer by Myles Hamilton to gain the momentum going into the locker room. Northern Kentucky attempted just five 3-pointers in the first half as leading scorer Eshaunte Jones picked up two early fouls and played just five minutes before the break.

“With (Jones) picking up the two fouls, I thought Staley and (Jack) Flournoy did a great job in the first half,” Bezold said. “After halftime, Tyler White and Todd Johnson made some huge shots to help us regain the momentum, and that was big for a pair of freshmen on the road.”

The two freshmen and Jackson sparked a 17-4 run that turned a 28-24 lead into a 17-point (45-28) bulge. Jackson started the spurt with a layup, and he followed that with a conventional three-point play to make it 33-24. With his team up 37-28, White hit a short jumper and the Norse led by 11 points.

Northern Kentucky extended the lead to 42-28 when White buried a long 3-pointer off a break set up by Jones, who stole the ball and passed ahead to the freshman guard. Moments later, Johnson drained a trey from the left corner to give the Norse a 45-28 advantage, and Kennesaw State was finished.

Staley pulled down a career-high seven rebounds, while Ernest Watson added four steals and five rebounds. The Norse shot 47.9 percent from the field and held Kennesaw State (3-24 overall, 2-13 A-Sun) to 41.2 percent shooting, including 28 percent in the first half.

Northern Kentucky also contained Kennesaw State's Markeith Cummings to five points, 12 below his team-leading 17.3 points per game average. Cummings was selected the Atlantic Sun Conference's top NBA prospect by a national publication in the preseason, but the Norse defense held him below double figures Thursday night.

Northern Kentucky wraps up the two-game road trip Saturday with a 4:30 p.m. contest at Mercer in Macon, Ga. The Bears (19-9 overall) are in first place in the Atlantic Sun Conference with a 12-3 record.

Earlier this season, Northern Kentucky posted a 63-46 win over Mercer in Highland Heights, Ky., in the first-ever meeting between the two programs.

NORSE NOTES: Ethan Faulkner passed Deron Blasingame (688 career points) Thursday night for 49th place on the Norse's all-time scoring list with 696 career points. Faulkner is now closing in on Vincent Humphrey (698 points) for 48th place on the list. Marvin Wilson is 47th with 706 points . . . Faulkner now has 336 career assists, which is 12th in school history. Faulkner needs six assists to move past Ryan Schrand (341) for 11th place on the Norse career list. Brenden Stowers (344 assists) is currently 10th in Norse history in that category. . . Eshaunte Jones had his streak of games of double-figure scoring halted at eight after netting six points against Kennesaw State. Jones has 951 career points as a collegiate player. Jones scored a total of 287 points in two years at Nebraska, and he now has 664 points in two seasons with Northern Kentucky. . . Kennesaw State is now 0-3 all-time against Northern Kentucky. The Norse swept the Owls this season and also defeated them during the 2003-04 season when both programs were in Division II.

Source: NKU Sports Information

Photo: NKU file from prior game