NKU's Strong Second Half Propels Norse to Horizon Second Round
Northern Kentucky won a shootout with Detroit Mercy on Wednesday night in an opening round game of the Horizon League tournament at BB&T Arena in Highland Heights.
Early in the game, the Norse looked vulnerable to a repeat of last season's conference tournament: being bounced in the opening round by a team with a losing record.
Detroit Mercy (11-20), the #7 seed, started hot, hitting ten first half threes and running the lead up to double digits multiple times. Josh McFolley had 18 first-half points for the Titans.
Northern Kentucky (24-8), the #2 seed, clawed their way back in the game, trailing 47-40 at the break in the high-scoring game that saw a combined 17 three-point makes in the first half.
The second half was all NKU.
Led by Tyler Sharpe's 25 points and Trevon Faulkner's 20, the Norse outscored Detroit Mercy, 59-41 in the second half, winning 99-88.
Senior Drew McDonald, who became NKU's all-time leading scorer this season, was honored at game's end, his final game appearance at BB&T Arena. He scored 16 points in the game.
Chris Vogt was also in double figures, adding 16 to the Norse's tally.
The semifinals of the Horizon League tournament return to Detroit's Little Caesers Arena where NKU will play #3-seed Oakland (16-16). The Norse and the Grizzlies split a pair of games in the regular season.
Tip-off is 9:30 p.m., or after the #1-seed Wright State (20-12) faces #4-seed Green Bay (17-15) at 7 p.m.
The winners of those two games will play in the title game in Detroit on Tuesday at 7 p.m., with an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament on the line.
NKU won the tournament in 2017, advancing to the NCAA Tournament in its first year of eligibility as a Division I program and losing in the opening round to Kentucky. Last season, the Norse were shocked by Cleveland State in the Horizon League's opening round, but advanced to the NIT, losing in the first round to Louisville.
-Michael Monks, editor & publisher
Photos by RCN's Brian Frey