The top-two teams in the Horizon League’s men’s basketball preseason poll meet in a nationally-televised game on Friday, Jan. 5, when Northern Kentucky squares off at Oakland. A 9 p.m. tip is scheduled for the contest, which is airing on ESPN2.
Northern Kentucky University Norse (9-5 Overall, 2-0 Horizon League)
Oakland University Golden Grizzlies (9-6 Overall, 1-1 Horizon League)
Friday, Jan. 5 – 9:00 p.m. (ET)
Athletics Center O’rena (4,000) in Rochester, Mich.
TV: ESPN2 with Jordan Bernfield (Play-by-Play) and Brooke Weisbrod (Color)
Radio: ESPN1530 (1530 AM) with Jim Kelch (Play-by-Play) and Steve Moeller (Color)
Stats: Live Stats
Fast Break Points
• Northern Kentucky had it rolling on both ends of the floor in the first half against UIC, leading 49-16 at intermission en route to an 86-51 victory.
• NKU used runs of nine, 10, 10 and eight points and held UIC to just 26 percent (7-of-27) shooting from the floor in that dominant first half.
• The Norse are 8-9 all-time versus Oakland, including a 1-3 mark in the Horizon League.
• NKU was picked second in the Horizon League Preseason Poll, one spot behind Oakland.
• Northern Kentucky is 10th in the nation in 2-point field goal percent (59.8).
• NKU is averaging 18.2 assists per game, a mark that ranks 15th in the nation. It also only commits 12.3 turnovers an outing, which ranks 79th nationally. Combining those two marks results in an assist-to-turnover ratio of 1.48, the 20th best in the country.
• NKU forces the 34th-most turnovers per game in the nation (16.6) and allows teams to distribute just 10.2 assists per game.
• NKU’s 3-point field goal defense ranks 7th in the nation at 28.4 percent.
• Through games played Jan. 1, NKU sits 68th on KenPom.com, which is tops in the Horizon League. In a recent column on TheAthletic.com, Ken Pomeroy marked NKU’s odds at 72 percent to win the Horizon League. Oakland was second with a 35 percent chance.
• The Norse are receiving votes in the CollegeInsider.Com Mid-Major Top-25 Poll.
• NKU is one of 16 teams in the country to return at least 70 percent of its production in points (77), rebounds (84) and assists (84).
• F Drew McDonald has notched four-straight double-doubles, while averaging 21.5 points and 11.0 rebounds per game during the four-contest stretch.
• The Horizon League Preseason Player of the Year leads NKU in scoring (17.1 ppg) and rebounding (8.1 rpg) and has six double-doubles, 29th most in the country.
• G Lavone Holland II is the consummate point guard – scores when needed (13.1 ppg), sets the table for his teammates (5.4 apg) and takes care of the ball (2.0 turnovers per game). His 2.68 assist-to-turnover ratio ranks 42nd in the country.
• F Carson Williams is converting 66.9 percent of his field-goal attempts (79-of-118), a mark that ranks 9th in the country. He is averaging 14.1 ppg.
• G Mason Faulkner made a big impact against UIC, recording 15 points and three assists.
Last Time Out
Suffocating defense, coupled with four runs of at least eight points (nine, 10, 10 and eight in order), catapulted Northern Kentucky to an insurmountable 49-16 halftime lead. The Norse outscored UIC in the second half as well on their way to an 86-51 decision.
NKU’s defense held UIC to 35.7 percent (20-of-56) shooting for the game, including a paltry 13.3 percent (2-of-15) from deep. It also forced 18 miscues from the Flames. The Norse dished out 22 assists.
McDonald paced NKU with 19 points and 12 rebounds for his fourth-straight double-double. Faulkner added a season-high 15 points and three assists. Holland continued to impact the game in all aspects, tallying 12 points, seven rebounds and five assists. Jalen Tate chipped in with six points, five boards and five assists.
Oakland is 9-6 overall and 1-1 in the Horizon League following its one-point setback at Green Bay on Saturday. The Golden Grizzlies feature the third-most potent offense in the Horizon League, averaging 80.3 points per game, but they allow teams to score at the eighth-worst clip, 79.6 ppg. Oakland’s offense features three of the most prolific scorers in the league. Kendrick Nunn, a transfer from Illinois, has reached the 30-point plateau in four of the team’s last five games and has the nation’s second-best scoring average at 25.3 points. Jalen Hays is averaging 20.1 points and 8.5 rebounds, while Martez Walker scores at a clip of 19.3.
The Norse trail the Golden Grizzlies in the all-time series, 8-9, and are just 1-3 against them since joining the Horizon League. NKU won the first matchup in 2015-16 at Oakland, but have dropped the last three. In last year’s two games versus the Golden Grizzlies, Williams averaged 16.5 points and 6.0 rebounds, Holland put up 13.0 points and 4.0 assists and McDonald averaged 12.0 points and 10.5 boards.
Assistant Athletic Director
Communications and Media Services
Northern Kentucky University