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Two in a Row as the Norse Down Idaho

 Anthony Monaco posted a career-high scoring night and Tayler Persons touched double-figures for the sixth time in seven games as the Northern Kentucky University men’s basketball team posted an 81-68 victory over Idaho on Monday night at The Bank of Kentucky Center.

The win reprised NKU’s 79-74 win at Idaho earlier this season, and pushed the Norse record to 6-6 on the season.

Monaco posted 17 points to set a new career high, eclipsing his previous best 12-point effort earlier this season against Nebraska. Tayler Persons added a team-high 23 points on 9-of-17 shooting, while Tyler White scored 12 points, all in the second half, shooting 4-of-9 from beyond the arc. Bench play was again key for the Norse, as the reserves accounted for 43 of NKU’s 81 points, including 10 from Jalen Billups.

“Offensively, we did a great job moving the basketball and staying balanced inside and outside, we had a number of guys step up and make big plays,” said head coach Dave Bezold following the win. “Be it shooting from the perimeter and hitting threes or getting offensive rebounds like Daniel Camps or Jordan Jackson, not having any shots and getting seven assists and playing a heck of a game defensively.”

Daniel Camps had a career night with 11 rebounds to go with six points, all on hustle plays that created statement dunks for the Norse. Jordan Jackson’s seven assists also tied a career high, equaling his effort last season against UT Martin on Dec. 7, 2013.

“The defense cannot be affected by the offense, so they’re showing some maturity, and Camps showed a lot of maturity,” said Bezold of Camps’ effort. “He didn’t even get to play against Morehead State a couple of nights ago, so if the young man is worried about a holiday break and not focused here tonight, we don’t win this game. He came off the bench and provided an incredible spark, got to a lot of loose balls. It’s important that we’ve got a number of guys that can come in an impact the game at different levels.”

The Norse reached the 80-point mark for the fourth-consecutive game, a first for NKU in the Division I era. NKU put together a streak of 10-straight games of 80-or-more points to open the 2011-12 season, NKU’s final year as a Division II program. Though from the outset, the offensive output didn’t appear to be there tonight for either team.

Mike Scott scored a game-high 25 points to lead Idaho (5-6), but was held to just four points in the second half. Connor Hill chipped in 14 points while Sekou Wiggs netted 12 points.

It took over three minutes to open the scoring, with the teams combining to miss 16 shots to start the game. Paulin Mpawe had a rebound and stick-back for the Vandals. Things picked up quickly, particularly for NKU, which went from missing six in a row to hitting six of their next eight tries to take a 15-12 lead halfway through the stanza, bookended by 3-point baskets from Persons and Murray.

Monaco took a hit on a 3-point attempt and knocked down all three free throws to stretch the Norse lead to six points and give NKU a 6-0 run over the span of less than a minute. NKU cooled off a bit, but kept the Vandals in check as well, forcing three of Idaho’s eight turnovers in the first half over a 32-second span.

After the teams traded buckets, Todd Johnson gave the Norse a five-point advantage at 28-23 with back-to-back treys less than 30 seconds apart. Persons then took his turn at a run, hitting three-straight buckets to help the Norse keep pace with Idaho’s Mike Scott, who scored 10-consecutive Vandal points over a 2:45 span.

Monaco picked up 12 points in the first half, punctuated by a 3-pointer to close out the scoring in the opening stanza, as NKU took a 40-34 lead into the locker room. Bench scoring was huge once again for the Black and Gold, which got 27 points out of their reserves in the first half.

Much like the first half, NKU came out slow in the second half, missing on their first eight shots as Idaho took a brief 42-41 lead on the strength of six points to open the frame from Wiggs. The Norse quickly responded, connecting on five straight field goals, including a Camps jam to break up a string of trifectas from White and Monaco, to go on a 13-4 run and take an eight-point lead, 54-46, at the 13:42 mark.

White hit back-to-back 3-pointers to cap a 10-2 run for the Norse, extending NKU’s lead to 10 points at 71-61 with 5:43 to go. The Norse continued to keep the pace as Persons and Billups made free throws down the stretch to help NKU pick up the victory.

The Norse return to action on Dec. 27, taking on their third Big Ten team of the season in Northwestern. Tip-off from Welsh-Ryan Arena in Evanston, Illinois, is set for 2 p.m. Central (3 p.m. Eastern), with the broadcast on the Big Ten Network and The Project 100.7/106.3 FM. Fans can also follow @NKUNorseGameDay on Twitter for up-to-the-minute action.

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