A strong start to the second half and key free throw shooting down the stretch helped the Northern Kentucky men’s basketball team defeat Oakland, 87-83, on Friday night in a nationally-televised matchup of two squads picked to finish at the top of the Horizon League. With the win, NKU moves to 10-5 overall and 3-0 in Horizon League play. Oakland falls to 9-7 on the season and 1-2 in the League.
Four players scored in double figures for the Norse led by Carson Williams, who just missed out on a double-double with 21 points and nine rebounds.
Lavone Holland II added 19 points, four rebounds and three assists.
Jeff Garrett had 11 points, and Jordan Garnett contributed 10.
Drew McDonald finished the game with eight points and 12 rebounds.
Oakland had gotten the game to one possession at 81-79 with 27 seconds left in the contest. However, the Norse were able to go 6-for-6 from the free throw line in the final seconds to preserve the win.
The Norse led 10-4 at the first media timeout, thanks to five points each from Holland and Williams.
NKU had an eight-point lead early in the first half, but Oakland battled back and took its first lead of the game with 11:35 remaining in the first period.
The Golden Grizzlies were ahead 32-30 with 5:52 remaining, and they went on an 8-0 run over the next 1:12 to take a 40-30 lead. Oakland took a 47-41 advantage into halftime.
Garrett was the top scorer for the Norse in the half with nine points, and Holland and Williams each added eight points.
NKU shot 15-of-34 (44.1%) in the period, while Oakland went 16-of-28 (57.1%) from the floor.
The Norse had a 20-14 rebounding advantage, and NKU’s bench outscored Oakland’s bench 18-9 in the half.
NKU also held Oakland to without a field goal in the last 4:40 of the half, only allowing the Golden Grizzlies to make seven free throws in that time span.
The Norse went on a 9-0 run over a period of 2:26 early in the half to take a 57-52 lead, forcing the Golden Grizzlies to call a timeout with 15:56 to play.
Williams scored eight points and Garnett knocked down a pair of three-pointers in the first 4:04 of the half to help the Norse regain the lead.
After missing its first field goal of the half, NKU converted seven-straight shots.
The Norse got the lead to as much as nine in the half, but Oakland came back to cut the lead to 81-79 with 27 seconds to play.
NKU converted 6-of-6 free throws in the final 27 seconds to get the 87-83 win.
Williams had 13 points in the half to lead the team, Holland added 11, and Garnett scored all 10 of his points in the period.
NKU shot a blistering 17-of-27 (63.0%) in the half, while Oakland went 12-of-25 (48.0%).
The Norse went 9-of-12 (75.0%) on free throws in the half, and the Golden Grizzlies were 7-of-12 (58.3%) from the charity stripe.
NKU finished the game shooting 32-of-61 (52.5%) from the floor, and Oakland went 28-of-53 (52.8%) on field goals.
The Norse had four players in double figures.
NKU had a 38-25 advantage on the boards, and outscored Oakland 19-4 on second chance points.
The Norse also finished with a 22-12 advantage in bench points.
This was Oakland’s first loss at the O’rena.
NKU took very good care of the ball during the game, committing just 11 turnovers.
Dating back to the start of the 2016-17 season, and including the Horizon League Championship, NKU has gone 18-6 against league opponents.
The Norse will stay in Michigan to face Detroit Mercy on Sunday, Jan. 7. Tipoff is scheduled for 2 p.m., and the game will be broadcast live on ESPN3.
Northern Kentucky University
Athletic Communications Graduate Assistant