Late Rally Pushes Norse Over Jacksonville, 73-66
Todd Johnson is known for directing Northern Kentucky's offense and setting up others for good shots.
On Saturday night in the final minute of the game, the sophomore point guard drained the biggest 3-pointer of his college career with the shot clock winding down against Jacksonville and his team holding a 66-65 lead.
As the shot clock showed less than five ticks left, Johnson caught a pass from Tyler White several feet behind the top of the key and launched a 25-footer that swished with just 32 seconds remaining to extend the Norse lead to 69-65. Northern Kentucky added four free throws in the closing seconds to secure a 73-66 victory against Jacksonville in front of a crowd of 1,507 in The Bank of Kentucky Center.
"It's repetition and confidence, and Todd is getting much better at taking those shots," Norse head coach Dave Bezold said of Johnson. "He gets us into our offense, but he is a good shooter. That was a huge shot he made."
Johnson finished with 11 points for Northern Kentucky, which improved to 6-9 overall, 2-1 in the Atlantic Sun Conference. The Norse actually trailed by eight points (61-53) with less than nine minutes remaining in the game.
Northern Kentucky closed the game with a 20-5 run to pull out the win. Last season, the Norse rallied from a 13-point deficit in the final 2:36 of the game to defeat the Dolphins, 66-62, in The Bank of Kentucky Center.
"I think it was a combination of us switching and communicating during the final eight minutes," Bezold said of his team's comeback. "I was watching the clock because we had a certain number of minutes in our bodies to be able to extend the defense and pressure. Then they have to miss some shots, and they did, and we missed some offensive rebounds, some tough bounces got us, but to our guys' credit, they dug in and found a way to get some critical stops and some big rebounds. Also, our guys just can't stand losing, and they just seem to find a way in these types of games."
Jordan Jackson scored a career-high 28 points to lead Northern Kentucky. Jackson poured in 15 points during the first half on 7-for-10 shooting from the field. Jackson constantly beat the Jacksonville defenders off the dribble and scored on a variety of moves slashing to the basket.
"Jordan had a very good game attacking the basket and finishing," Bezold said.
Jarvis Haywood netted 14 of his team-high 19 points in the first half as Jacksonville took a 38-37 lead into the locker room. Keith McDougald added 12 points of his 18 points in the first half as the Dolphins shot 42.3 percent from the field and were 14-for-16 from the free-throw line before intermission.
In the second half, Jacksonville (5-9 overall, 1-2 Atlantic Sun Conference) was just 1-for-5 from the free-throw line.
Norse sophomore center Jalen Billups collected a double-double with 10 points and a career-high 12 rebounds. Northern Kentucky improved to 62-13 all-time in The Bank of Kentucky Center, including 4-2 this season.
Northern Kentucky shot 45.1 percent from the field and won the rebounding battle by a 38-35 count. The Norse were also 21-for-24 from the free-throw line and improved to 2-1 all-time against Jacksonville.
Northern Kentucky wraps up the two-game homestand Monday when North Florida visits at 7 p.m. North Florida is 9-7 overall, 3-0 in the Atlantic Sun Conference.