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Sunday, March 5, 2017

NKU Tips As Highest Seeded Team Left

FTM file. 
With a 21-win regular-season and third-place tie in the Horizon League standings in the books, Northern Kentucky turns the page to the postseason and 2017 Little Caesar’s Horizon League Men’s Basketball Championship where it faces No. 5-see Wright State.

NKU goes into the game as the highest seeded team left in the tournament with upsets to the number 1, 2, and 3 seeded teams in Oakland, Valparaiso and Green Bay.

Game Information
Northern Kentucky University Norse (21-10 Overall, 12-6 Horizon League)
Wright State University Raiders (20-11 Overall, 11-7 Horizon League)
Sunday, March 5 - 7:30 p.m. (ET)
Joe Louis Arena (20,027) in Detroit, Mich.
TV: ESPN3 with Will Haskett (play-by-play) and Dave Kaplan (analysis)
Radio: ESPN1530 (ESPN1530 AM) with Andrew Kappes (play-by-play) and Steve Moeller (analysis)

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Fast Break Points
• NKU earned its 21st win of the season and first ever against Valparaiso with an 82-78 decision Sunday.
• The win put the Norse into a third-place tie with Green Bay in the Horizon League standings.
• NKU earned the No. 4 seed by virtue of the tie-breaking procedure and faces No. 5 Wright State for the third time this year.
• NKU went 2-0 against Wright State with both games coming down to the wire. The Norse won 83-79 at Wright State and 83-76 at Northern Kentucky.
• The Norse have won nine of their last 11 games, which includes three-straight victories to conclude the regular season.
• NKU sits at 21-10 and has established a new Division I-era record for victories, topping the 13 recorded in the 2014-15 season as a member of the Atlantic Sun.
• NKU’s 21 wins are 12 more than it had last year, a turnaround that is the second-best in the nation based on wins alone. According to the NCAA, which also considers losses, NKU is fourth at plus-11.5.
• NKU reached a program-best No. 100 in the March 2 RPI release.
• The 70-point plateau is key for NKU. Northern Kentucky is 18-4 when scoring at least 70 points and 13-2 when holding opponents to 70 or fewer points.
• NKU has eight players who set foot on a collegiate basketball court for the first time this year. According to, the average experience for the Norse this year is 1.30 years, which is 295th.
• After a four-year reclassification process, NKU is eligible to compete for a berth in the NCAA tourney after receiving active status from the NCAA in August.
• Second-year head coach John Brannen was named Horizon League Coach of the Year after leading the Norse to 21 wins and a third-place league finish.
• F Drew McDonald was named to both First Team All-Horizon League and All-Academic Team.
• McDonald also won his third Horizon League Player of the Week honor after averaging 22.7 points and led the Norse to three wins in the week. He has a team-high 10 double-doubles on the year, while also leading NKU in scoring (16.5) and rebounding (7.6).
• F Carson Williams was named to the Horizon League All-Freshman Team after collecting a league-best four freshman of the week honors, including each of the last two. He is fourth on the team in scoring (10.6) and second in rebounding (5.9).
• F Cole Murray is third on the team in scoring at 10.7 ppg, ranks No. 17 nationally with 96 made threes this year and No. 31 in 3-point shooting percent, converting 42.1 percent. He has made a triple in 30-of-31 games.
• G Lavone Holland II average 18.3 points and 7.0 assists per game during the last week of play, helping NKU close the season with three-straight wins. He is second on the team at 13.9 ppg, but has a team-high 125 assists.

Scouting Wright State
Wright State secured the No. 5 seed in the Horizon League Championship following an 11-7 league mark, which was part of a 20-11 overall record. All-Horizon League First Team performer Mark Alstork leads the Raiders in scoring at 18.9 points. He’s been to the free-throw line over 200 times this year and boasts an 85.6 percent completion rate. Steven Davis and Grant Benzinger contribute 15.3 and 12.3 points, respectively. Do-it-all-guard Justin Mitchell averages 11.5 points and 8.2 rebounds per game, while dishing out 3.9 assists per game.

All-Time Series
NKU is just 9-21 all-time against WSU, but has won both meetings this season.

In the two games this year, NKU has scored 83 points both times and Wright State averaged 77.5 ppg. Both teams were led by its “big four.” For Northern Kentucky, McDonald averaged 19 ppg, while Murray added 18.5 ppg. Holland and Williams contributed 12.5 and 11 ppg, respectively. Wright State was paced by Mark Alstork (25.5), Grant Benzinger (14.5), Steven Davis (14.0) and Justin Mitchell (11.5). While WSU’s “big four” outscored NKU’s, 65.5-61, the Norse received better aid from its supporting cast. Jordan Garnett knocked down key three-pointers in both games and averaged 7.5 ppg, and Dantez Walton helped to the tune of 7.0 ppg.

Last Time Out
Northern Kentucky trailed for just 32-seconds the entire game and only by a mere point in taking down league-leading Valparaiso, 82-78, on NKU’s senior night. It marked the first time in four tries that the Norse were able to defeat the Crusaders. McDonald converted a turnaround jumper in the paint with 1:30 remaining to put hte Norse ahead five. Garnett, McDonald and Holland combined to go 6-for-6 at the charity stripe in the final 25-seconds to seal the game. McDonald had 23 points to lead NKU and Holland nearly had an unconventional double-double with 17 points and nine assists. Williams matched Holland’s 17 points behind 5-of-7 shooting, including 6-for-6 from the line. Northern Kentucky made 58 percent (26-of-45) of its shots, marking the best shooting percentage a team posted versus Valpo this year. The Crusaders shot just 44 percent.

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