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NORSE MEN FALL TO NO. 18 SIUE, 68-59 - Feb. 2, 2006
Cougars hold off second-half rally by NKU for 12th consecutive win

NKU’s Vincent Humphrey

EDWARDSVILLE, Ill. - After watching his team drop a 68-59 decision at Southern Illinois at Edwardsville on Thursday night, Northern Kentucky University head coach Dave Bezold had quite a compliment for the lightning-quick Cougars.

“They are the quickest team we have faced this year, and it caused us a lot of problems in the first half. It took us a whole 20 minutes to get used to that quickness,” Bezold said. “We did a better job in the second half and actually outscored them, but it wasn’t enough to overcome the first half.”

SIUE, ranked No. 18 nationally in the NCAA Division II poll, allowed NKU to shoot just 36.8 percent from the field in the first half. The Cougars used a 10-2 run in the final six minutes of the first half to build a 30-18 lead at the break.

Justin Ward sparked the run by hitting two free throws and later draining a 3-pointer to give SIUE a 27-18 advantage. Nick Arth capped the run with a basket while being fouled with 55 seconds left, and he converted the free throw to make it 30-18 at halftime.

Vincent Humphrey scored 10 of his 13 points in the second half to rally NKU. The Norse pulled within 38-35 on a jumper by Kevin Reinhardt with 14:33 remaining, but SIUE responded with two straight baskets to push its lead to 42-35.

A jumper by Gavin Ludgood and a 3-pointer by Reinhardt cut the SIUE advantage to 45-40 with 10:32 left, but the Cougars scored the next nine points to build a 54-40 lead.

Arth started the SIUE spurt with a 3-pointer, and Ryan Belcher added two baskets to key the run.

“We had some guys who had good nights on offense, but we did not get enough on the defensive end,” Bezold said. “Whenever we did get close in the second half, it seemed like (SIUE) would hit a 3-pointer because we went the wrong way on a screen. You can’t beat a ranked team on the road doing that.”

Ty Johnson, J.B. Jones and Mike Hardiek each scored 11 points to lead the Cougars, who improved to 16-3 overall, 10-2 in the Great Lakes Valley Conference. Arth and Belcher each added 10 points for the balanced SIUE attack.

SIUE shot 50 percent from the field and extended its winning streak to 12 games. The Cougars are ranked No. 2 in the latest NCAA Division II Great Lakes Region poll.

Reinhardt finished with 12 points for NKU, which shot 44.4 percent from the field. The Norse won the rebounding battle by a 29-24 margin.

Billy Finnell scored 11 points and dished out a game-high six assists for NKU. Humphrey made a trio of 3-point shots, while Ludgood grabbed eight rebounds to lead the Norse.

NKU is 13-6 overall, 8-3 in the GLVC. As a result of the loss, the Norse fell into second place behind Saint Joseph’s - a 107-85 winner over Missouri-St. Louis on Thursday night - in the GLVC East standings.

NKU will conclude the two-game road trip at 4:15 p.m. Saturday at Quincy. The Norse are ranked No. 4 in the NCAA Division II Great Lakes Region poll.