The Northern Kentucky University men’s basketball team has been crowned the 2017 Horizon League Tournament Champion after defeating No. 10 seed Milwaukee, 59-53, on Tuesday night at Joe Louis Arena. The Norse have earned an automatic NCAA Tournament berth in their first year eligible to do so since being granted full Division I status in August.
En route to the championship, the No.4-seeded Norse (24-10) defeated No. 5 seed Wright State on Sunday in the quarterfinals, 82-77, and turned around to defeat No. 9 seed Youngstown State, 84-74, in the semifinals on Monday.
Northern Kentucky now awaits Selection Sunday when it will find out its fate in the NCAA Tournament. Remarkably, the Norse are just the seventh team all-time to reach the NCAA tourney in their first year eligible.
· Lavone Holland II was the Horizon League Tournament MVP. The junior totaled 56 points and 16 assists across NKU’s three games.
· Drew McDonald was named to the All-Tournament Team after registering 48 total points and 27 rebounds throughout the tournament.
· Holland sank 20 points for the second-straight game. In addition to his game-high 20 points, Holland dished out four assists and pulled down six rebounds and posted two steals and a block.
· McDonald registered his 11th double-double of the season with 14 points and 12 rebounds.
· Cole Murray added eight points, two assists and two blocks.
FIRST HALF SUMMARY
· NKU opened the game on a 13-4 run and led the rest of the way. McDonald drained seven points in the opening five minutes.
· The Norse kept Milwaukee at a seven-point distance until the Panthers rode a 9-2 run to make it a two-point game at 22-20 with 8:39 left in the half.
· A Holland triple broke up the run and extended NKU’s lead back to five at 25-20.
· NKU built up a game-high nine-point lead with 2:14 remaining but struggled to connect from the field throughout the remainder of the period.
· Milwaukee posted six-straight points to end the half to cut the NKU advantage to 31-28 at halftime.
SECOND HALF SUMMARY
· Milwaukee came back within two of the Norse with 18:12 to play, but back-to-back treys from McDonald and Murray extended the NKU lead to 39-31 two minutes later.
· A 3:18 scoring drought from NKU allowed Milwaukee to come back within three at 41-38 with 12:05 left.
· A triple from Holland cushioned NKU’s lead back to 44-38.
· NKU’s lead fluctuated between four and six points from the 11:46 mark to the 1:11 mark as the teams traded buckets.
· Milwaukee came within three points of NKU twice within the final minute, but a McDonald jumper and a Holland free throw helped the Norse keep their distance.
· The Norse are 19-3 when at least one player reaches 20 points or more in a game.
· Holland now has 111 points and 37 assists across the last six contests.
· The Norse won the rebounding battle 38-30 as they improve to 21-5 when out-rebounding their opponent.
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