The Northern Kentucky men’s basketball team is headed to the 2017 Little Caesar’s Horizon League Men’s Basketball Championship game after earning an 84-74 win over No. 9 seed Youngstown State in the semifinals on Monday night at Joe Louis Arena.
Northern Kentucky led the whole way and improves to 23-10 overall. The Norse will take on the winner of the No. 6 UIC/No. 10 Milwaukee game scheduled for a 9:30 p.m. tip. The Championship game is set for 7 p.m. on Tuesday and will air on ESPN.
· Drew McDonald had 12 points in his first eight minutes and posted 17 points and four rebounds in the first half alone. The sophomore posted 26 total points and was a rebound shy of a double-double. Four of his 10 field goals were 3-pointers.
· Lavone Holland II registered 20 points, including 12 in the second half. Holland also dished out three assists and recorded three steals.
· Mason Faulkner was the third and final Norse in double-figures with 10 points to go along with three assists.
· Dantez Walton put together a complete game with eight points, six rebounds and two assists. He knocked down a clutch three-pointer from the corner with just under two minutes on the clock to help NKU seal the game
· Northern Kentucky ended the first half on a 12-2 run to hold a 42-27 halftime lead. Back-to-back 3-pointers from McDonald and Cole Murray helped fuel the run.
· The closest Youngstown State would get throughout the remainder of the game was within five points with 2:21 left in the game.
· Five-straight points including Walton’s triple and pair of free-throws from Holland restored NKU’s double-figure advantage with 36 seconds left as NKU closed out the victory.
FIRST HALF SUMMARY
· NKU used the perimeter to speed out to an 8-2 advantage with triples from McDonald and Holland in the first two minutes.
· McDonald dropped 12 points in the first eight minutes as NKU held a 22-14 advantage with 11:17 remaining in the half.
· Holland sparked an 8-1 Norse run with a layup at the 9:24 mark. A Jordan Garnett triple capped it off and put Northern Kentucky ahead, 30-19 as the NKU defense held the Penguins scoreless for three minutes.
· Six-straight points from YSU brought them back within five at 30-25 with 4:47 left in the period.
· NKU closed the half on a 12-2 run over the final 4:19, holding Youngstown State scoreless for the final three minutes, to lead by 15 at the half, 42-27.
· Northern Kentucky shot 46.9 percent from the floor in the opening period to YSU’s 31.4 percent.
SECOND HALF SUMMARY
· Youngstown State opened the second half on a 9-0 run to cut the Norse lead to 42-36 with 17:09 left.
· A Holland triple and Faulkner layup on a fast break pushed the Norse lead back to double-figures at 47-36 with 16:22 on the clock.
· NKU’s lead hovered around the double-digit mark and extended to a game-high tying 15 point advantage when the Norse scored six uninterrupted points to lead 58-53 with 7:22 left.
· YSU then rode a 15-7 run from the 7:24 mark to the 3:36 mark to come within seven at 75-68. The Penguins then pulled within five with 2:21 to play but Walton triple pushed NKU’s lead back out to eight with 1:38 to play as the Norse held on for the win.
· The Norse are 18-3 when at least one player reaches 20 points or more in a game.
· Holland has 53 points and 21 assists in the last three games. Further, the junior has 91 points and 33 assists across the last five contests.
· McDonald registered his team-leading 13th 20-point+ scoring performance.
· NKU’s bench out-scored Youngstown State’s reserves 24-3. Additionally, NKU posted 18 second-chance points to YSU’s six.
· The Norse won the rebounding battle by a narrow 37-36 margin as they improve to 20-5 when out-rebounding their opponent.
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