led NKU with 15 points
Ky. - For 36 minutes Saturday afternoon, Northern Kentucky University
did a masterful job of controlling the tempo and making clutch shots
against powerful Saint Joseph’s.
the final four minutes of the game, the Pumas displayed why they
are ranked 10th nationally in the NCAA Division II poll and hoping
to make a run at the national championship in March.
Sullivan Sykes scored
10 of his 28 points in the game’s final 3:36 as Saint Joseph’s
rallied to post a 75-69 win over NKU. Saint Joseph’s (22-2
overall, 12-2 Great Lakes Valley Conference) trailed by five points
(64-59) with 2:57 left, but the Pumas used a game-ending 16-5 run
to avoid the upset.
was awesome. It was an ‘A’ for our effort all the way
to the end, but we didn’t finish the game off offensively,”
NKU head coach Dave Bezold said. “We had three turnovers out
of our last five or six possessions when it mattered, and then we
couldn’t come up with the big offensive rebounds.”
Sykes, a 6-foot-4 scoring machine who averages 18 points per game,
gave Saint Joseph’s a 66-64 lead with 1:26 left with a basket.
He added four free throws in the final 39 seconds to seal the win.
Rashad McSwine added 21 points for Saint Joseph’s, which
won in Regents Hall for the second straight year. Sykes grabbed
10 rebounds for the Pumas, who were 19-for-23 from the free-throw
line in the second half.
“(Sykes and McSwine) are their two best players, and we didn’t
have an answer for either one of them defensively,” Bezold
said. “When it was crunch time, they made the plays and we
Mark Hawkins scored
15 points to lead NKU, which dropped to 14-8 overall, 9-5 in the
GLVC. Hawkins drained a 3-pointer with 4:39 left to give NKU a 59-57
lead, and the Norse later extended the advantage to 64-59 when David
McFarland made a 3-pointer.
That set the stage for
Sykes, who shares the GLVC Tournament scoring record of 35 points
with former NKU guard Mike Kelsey.
attempts a jumper
“Sykes is just
a good, all-around player. With a guy like that, you just can’t
do too much,” Hawkins said. “All you can do is try to
contain him. I think we did a good job of making him take tough
shots, but he made a lot of tough shots. Every shot he took, he
had a hand in his face.”
NKU - which owns wins
against nationally ranked opponents Findlay, Lynn (Fla.) and Grand
Valley State this season - appeared on its way to another upset
early in the second half. The Norse took a 44-37 lead with 14:42
remaining when Kevin Reinhardt hit a short jumper.
Sykes answered with five of the next six Saint Joseph’s points,
and McSwine drained a 3-pointer to tie the game at 46-all. NKU used
an 8-2 run to build a 54-48 advantage with 8:42 left on a basket
by Billy Finnell, but the Pumas countered with a 7-0 spurt to gain
a 55-54 lead.
“We made some
shots, but we didn’t make the stops on the defensive end,”
Hawkins said. “Everybody played hard. That was probably the
best team effort we’ve had.
but we didn’t finish out on the defensive end, and we were
careless with the ball towards the end of the game.”
Finnell scored 13 points
and had six rebounds for NKU, which shot 48.1 percent from the field.
The Norse’s shot selection and patience kept them in control
most of the contest.
“It was the result of taking good shots and staying patient
offensively,” he said. “In order to beat a good team
like this, you have to shoot well and we did that. We gave ourselves
a chance to win. We just turned it over a little too many times
at the end and couldn’t get the big offensive rebounds.”
Kevin Schappell added nine points and seven rebounds for NKU, which
finished 11-2 at home
this season. The Norse close out the regular season with four road
games, not to mention another trip to Rensselaer, Ind., to complete
a suspended game with Saint Joseph’s.
Earlier this season on Dec. 8, a power outage in the Scharf Alumni
Fieldhouse caused the game between NKU and Saint Joseph’s
to be suspended late in the second half. Saint Joseph’s owned
a 57-40 lead with 6:30 remaining in the game when the power went
out in the gym. That game will be resumed at the point of stoppage
on Feb. 22.
NKU will play a road game at Bellarmine at 8 p.m. Tuesday. The
Norse will also visit Kentucky Wesleyan next Saturday afternoon.