The Northerner | Norse use lockdown defense, scoring clinic to come up with win over Wright State
It’s safe to say that Darrin Horn’s side vented some frustrations on this one.
Despite a tremendous effort in the final 10 minutes of the second half to repeat last season’s Horizon League Championship game between Trey Calvin and Wright State, the NKU basketball team kept the Raiders out of reach as they clinched a 78-64 win . take the Norse to first place in the Horizon League with a 3-0 conference record.
Nine of the 10 Nordic players who played got into the points column, with Marques Warrick leading with 19 and followed by Trevon Faulkner and Chris Brandon with 12 each. Sam Vinson continued to show why he’s one of the best defensemen in college basketball by nabbing two steals that night and showing his 11 points, five rebounds and five assists on offense.
“We played to the level we need on defense, especially in the second half when we forced eight steals,” Horn said of his team’s performance that night. “Offensively I thought we would be better in transition tonight, we had four guys in double digits [in points].”
The Norsemen opened the night with some theatrics as Brandon, Trey Robinson and Imanuel Zorgvol all pulled off stunning dunks in the opening twelve minutes of the ball game that knocked the Norse fans out of their seats and gave NKU a 10-point lead. As a team, the Norse went out at 11:17 as Robinson and Warrick led by five points before the first media timeout.
Despite remaining scoreless in the last two minutes of the half and going off the field at 1-13, NKU stuck their nose in the dirt defensively to work towards a 33-29 lead at half-time. The Norse was able to keep the Raiders 1-for-8 behind the three-point line as well as in several runs that kept Wright State scoreless for two minutes or more.
Warrick and company started the second half like a house on fire: The Norse were perfect across the board in the first 3:22 as they went 4-on-4 from the field and free-throw line. and 2-for-2 from across the arc while keeping Wright State off the board except for an Amari Davis bucket from the charity strip.
But the Raiders weren’t out yet. Though the Norse held a 20-point lead by the 14:01 mark and kept Trey Calvin off the board to 10 points in the first half and six minutes in the second, the senior guard would stretch to 21 points in the final.
The run would not be nearly enough, however, because although the Raiders outscored the Norse by five points in the second half, Trevon Faulkner would come off the bench and use the leadership skills he learned in March’s loss to WSU and in the final score eight goals 14 minutes. Vinson and Robinson would also appear on the defensive end to combine and force five of NKU’s eight steals in the second half.
“It’s just the way we play defense, we dictate what they do and we don’t allow them to be comfortable,” Vinson said of the efforts of himself and his teammates. “The way we play it’s easy to jump into the fast lane and get steals when everyone is showing length. The other team struggled to color and pass the three-point line. So when we dictate what the other team does, we’re really good.”
Warrick spoke about the win after the game, echoing Horn’s comments earlier in the year about learning and moving on from March’s loss to the Raiders.
“We’re trying not to get into that, but we’re going into next season with different teams on either end,” Warrick said. “We prepared well for this game, so we had to forget last year, it’s a new year.”
Discussing his third double-double of the year, Brandon said confidence and the right attitude were his keys to holding on to his rebound tear and scoring double digits that night.
“I know I can dominate the guys that they have on stage and that’s what I came to just perform,” Brandon said.
After heading to Indianapolis on Saturday for a New Year’s Eve tilt with IUPUI, the Norse return to Highland Heights on Friday, January 6, where they face Oakland for their first game of 2023. The game starts at 7 p.m. and can be seen on ESPN+ and heard on ESPN 1530.