---James Cripe slams down two of his 10 points during the first half of NKU’s 73-68 win over Drury on Saturday night. Cripe also blocked three shots and pulled down 10 rebounds for the Norse.

FINDLAY, Ohio - After his team defeated Drury by a 73-68 score Saturday night in the first round of the NCAA Division II Tournament, Northern Kentucky University head coach Dave Bezold made an interesting confession in the post-game news conference.

Earlier in the week, Bezold said he was concerned about his team’s emotional state after dropping a gut-wrenching 63-61 decision to Southern Indiana in the championship game of the Great Lakes Valley Conference Tournament. But it would appear the third-year NKU head coach was only trying to mask his own anxiety.

“Looking back after our loss to Southern Indiana, I think it was my emotional state I was most worried about,” Bezold said after his team advanced to the regional semifinals. “I have four great seniors, and a loss doesn’t faze them. It was my own fears, because as tough as these players are, I should have had more faith in them.

“I knew they would be ready for Drury, and our seniors were outstanding tonight.”

As is usually the case, senior guard Steven Wright put on a show for the crowd in Croy Gymnasium with a game-high 26 points, including a pair of 3-pointers to give NKU an early 6-0 lead. Billy Finnell followed with a jumper to make it 8-0, forcing Drury to call a timeout just 2:21 into the game.

A rebound basket by Kevin Schappell extended NKU’s lead to 20-11 with 11:19 remaining in the half, but Drury countered with a 14-0 run during the next five minutes to take a 25-20 advantage.

“I started to get this eerie feeling after we gave up two (offensive rebounds) early, because that same thing happened against Southern last week and it caused us problems,” Bezold said. “We went into an extended scoring drought because we were not getting good shots.

"Steve had to take some very tough shots because we were not moving well enough to get good shots, and Drury took advantage of it because they have some great players.”

At halftime, Drury owned a 33-31 lead and had made 60.9 percent of its shots from the field. NKU, on the other hand, shot 41.4 percent from the field in the first half. Norse 7-footer James Cripe helped keep his team in the game with seven points, four rebounds and two blocked shots before the break.

“We were very familiar with Drury since we just played them a week ago, and then we also met them at their place in the regular season,” said Cripe, who finished with 10 points, 10 rebounds and three blocks. “I didn’t play well last week at the GLVC Tournament, and I just wanted to come out and contribute in this game. I was pleased with the way we battled and I was just happy to get a win and advance because Drury is an outstanding team.”

---Steven Wright scores two of his 26 points against Drury on Saturday night. Wright, the GLVC Player of the Year, also had four rebounds and three assists.

Wright poured in 18 points during the second half, including a 3-pointer with 8:43 left to extend NKU’s lead to 53-45. Anthony Teague netted the next five points for the Norse with a short jumper in the lane and a 3-pointer from downtown to make it 58-47.

“You know there are going to be runs in a game like this, and we had the last big run of the game to give us the cushion,” Bezold said. “Teague hit some huge shots for us, and when you get to this point, it is great teams versus great teams. Guys have to step up and make plays and battle to the end. We did that.”

Drury responded with its last run and pulled to within 58-55 with 4:58 left. Teague, however, buried another 3-pointer to extend NKU’s advantage to 61-55. After Wright hit a pair of free throws, Teague extinguished any hopes for Drury by draining a 3-pointer from the left side while being fouled to give NKU a 66-59 lead.

Teague finished with 19 points off the bench for NKU, which was 10-for-24 from 3-point range. Teague was 5-for-8 from behind the arc, while Wright finished 4-for-9 in 3-point attempts.

Teague's shots from long range at key moments were the difference, according to Drury head coach Steve Hesser.

"(Teague) made some difficult shots. Give him credit. If he misses those and we board it, it may have been a different story," Hesser said.

Collins Harris led fifth-seeded Drury (21-9) with 17 points and nine rebounds. The Panthers cooled off considerably in the second half from the field (14-for-33) and finished at 50 percent for the game.

Finnell added seven points and five assists for fourth-seeded NKU (23-8), while Schappell added seven points and four rebounds.

Now waiting for NKU in the regional semifinals is top-seeded Findlay, which owns the nation’s longest home winning streak at 59 consecutive games. The Oilers - winners of 28 consecutive games this season and ranked No. 3 nationally in the NCAA Division II poll - also have not lost to a non-conference opponent at home in front of its frenzied fans since Dec. 28, 1997, when St. Francis (Ill.) posted a 77-69 win over Findlay in Croy Gymnasium.

“Findlay is a well-coached team with great players, and we have to come out and be the aggressor and have confidence,” Wright said. “We can play with anyone, but we can’t make mistakes. Findlay will have a great crowd behind them, and we need to be at our best to win a game like this.”

Bezold agreed with that assessment.

“Findlay’s crowd is awesome, and I like to be in this type of atmosphere, although don’t get me wrong, I would rather be in Highland Heights for this game,” Bezold joked. "Findlay is one of the top teams in the nation, they have the longest home winning streak in the country and are a great team. They have not lost a game since November, and that’s incredible.

“You hit adversity, which we will against (Findlay) tomorrow, and see how you respond. This is why you play the game, and it should be a lot of fun for the fans.”