The Northern Kentucky University men’s basketball team’s monumental season came to a close on Friday night, as the Norse fell in the first round of the NCAA Tournament to No. 2-seeded Kentucky. With the 79-70 setback to the Wildcats, NKU ends the season with a 24-11 record, which is the Division I-era record for wins. The 2016-17 Norse also made their mark in history as just the seventh team all-time and only the second since 1970 to qualify for the NCAA Tournament in its first year eligible to do so.
· Lavone Holland II paced the Norse in scoring with 22 points for his third-straight 20-point game and his ninth of the season.
· Carson Williams also surpassed the 20-point margin with 21 points, 17 of which came in the second half. The rookie was 7-of-10 from the field and 7-of-7 from the charity stripe, and was just one rebound shy of a double-double after pulling down a team-high nine boards.
· Drew McDonald sank three of NKU’s eight 3-pointers and ended the game with 14 points and a game-high three assists and two steals.
First Half Summary
· NKU took its only lead of the game early on when Cole Murray connected on a triple to give the Norse a 7-6 lead on top the Wildcats just over two minutes into the contest.
· UK quickly extended to an eight-point advantage over the Norse, but an emphatic dunk from Holland spurred a 9-0 run that would bring NKU within two points, trailing 23-21 with 6:51 on the clock.
· UK retaliated with a 13-0 run, holding the Norse scoreless for more than four and a half minutes before Jordan Garnett connected from beyond the arc.
· The Wildcats led by a 38-24 margin at the half.
Second Half Summary
· NKU outscored Kentucky 46-41 in the second half thanks to a 17-point effort from Williams while Holland continued to shine with 14 points in the stanza.
· Kentucky jumped out to its largest lead of the game, holding an 18-point edge over the Norse at 44-26.
· Williams had eight-straight points for NKU to bring NKU back within 12 points, 47-35.
· Back-to-back 3-pointers from Murray and McDonald boosted NKU’s confidence in the closing minutes of the game.
· McDonald brought it within 10 points with a low-post jumper and followed it up with a defensive board that opened up Holland for a fastbreak jumper with two minutes remaining to close the Kentucky lead to single digits for the first time since the 4:47 mark in the first half.
· The Norse made six of their final eight shot attempts and stayed within a 10-point margin to close out their final game of the season.
· NKU shot 35.6 percent, but it was a tale of two halves as the Norse were a cold 24.3 percent in the first stanza before connecting at 47.2 percent in the second.
· The Norse were strong from the free throw line, with 10 makes on 11 attempts.
· NKU forced more turnovers than it committed, with eight miscues compared to 12 by Kentucky. The eight turnovers tie NKU’s season lows set against North Carolina Central on Nov. 26 and Wright State on March 3.
· The Wildcats had a 46-40 advantage in rebounding and outscored the Norse 32-26 in the paint. As with most of the stat lines, Kentucky held the advantage, but by a slim margin.
· Murray, McDonald, Williams, Holland and Brennan Gillis tied NKU’s single-season games-played mark, taking the court for the35th time this season. McDonald also tied Kevin Listerman for the most start in a season with 35.
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