Unfortunately for the NKU Norse, the story remains the same when they face Major D-1 programs.... Close, just not enough. In tonight's game at the KFC Yum! Center, the Norse were ready to play and stood tall against the Louisville Cardinals, but in the 4th Quarter Louisville's athleticism got the best of the Norse.
"Their length and athleticism is elite" Coach John Brannen said when describing Louisville. "They got some pros, and their pressure effected us and it happens sometimes when you have that length and athleticism on the floor."
NKU lead the game at halftime and really had the crowd at the Yum! Center holding their breath that the Norse were going to end their teams season. Junior Drew McDonald turned in yet another double/double in the game with 19 points and 13 rebounds while Senior guard Lavone Holland added 15 points of his own playing his final college game in his hometown. NKU struggled through the game to hit threes shooting 5 of 28 from the three point line. NKU also went 9/14 from the free throw line but did manage to outrebound the Cardinals 42-38 and have more second chance points by a +5 margin.
"We came out and played hard. Obviously we wanted to win" Sophmore guard Tyler Sharpe said to me after the game. "I thought we had them, being up 7 at halftime but they came out with great energy in the second half and kind of punched us in the mouth." After Lousiville scored just 7 points in the second quarter, star Forward Deng Adel took over the game for the Cardinals. Adel had just 4 points in the first half but scored 16 in the second half including 9 quick points in the third quarter to get Louisville back in the game. Louisville will play Middle Tennessee St in the second round of the NIT.
Although the Norse season ended with 2 losses one in the Horizon League Tourney and one in the NIT, this season was certainly not looked at as a failure by the coaches and fans alike. The Norse got their second straight 20 win season, went 15-3 in conference play and won their first Horizon League Regular Season Championship. With player like Drew McDonald, Tyler Sharpe, Mason Faulkner and Carson Williams returning for next season, the Norse definitely have plans to finally break through and get that major signature win for their program.