Hawkins, Harrison Morton, Kevin Schappell and Anthony Teague
celebrate during the final seconds of NKU’s 60-56 win
at Findlay on Sunday night. The Norse advanced to the NCAA
Division II Great Lakes Region title game.
- Prior to Sunday night’s NCAA Division II Tournament game
against Northern Kentucky University, a group of Findlay students
unveiled a sign that asked the following question of Norse standout
guard and Bowling Green State transfer Steven Wright:
Steven, why did you leave Bowling Green?”
How else could Wright have engineered an end to Findlay's 59-game
home winning streak - the nation’s longest at any level -
and eliminate the top-seeded Oilers from the Great Lakes Region
Tournament if he had remained at Bowling Green?
what Wright and his Norse teammates did Sunday night with a 60-56
victory over No. 3 Findlay in Croy Gymnasium. NKU (24-8) ignored
a loud, raucous Findlay crowd of nearly 2,000, clamped down defensively
late in the second half and earned a spot in the regional championship
game against No. 7 Grand Valley State on Tuesday night at 7 p.m.
How does it
feel to stop the nation’s longest home winning streak in front
of a crowd like that? Just a few miles from where your college career
began in Bowling Green, Ohio?
didn’t bother me, and I just fed off of it,” said Wright,
who scored 18 points. “Findlay has a great atmosphere and,
as a basketball player, you want to play in front of a big crowd.
When I played in the (Mid-American Conference) there really weren’t
a lot of fans most of the time, and this was one of the loudest
crowds I’ve ever played against.”
And play he
did. NKU trailed 32-29 at halftime despite shooting 54.5 percent
from the field, but the Norse started quickly to begin the second
half. Billy Finnell began the rally with a basket, and Vincent Humphrey
followed with a 3-pointer to give NKU a 34-32 lead.
over minutes later, scoring seven consecutive points to give NKU
a 43-36 advantage. Wright started his personal assault with a long-range
3-pointer and capped it with a driving layup that was assisted by
demonstrated why it had not lost to a non-conference opponent at
home since 1997. The Oilers used an 11-0 run to take a 47-43 lead
on Frank Phillips’ basket with 10:41 remaining, and the crowd
suddenly became a factor.
transfer from Valparaiso in his second season at NKU, said the noise
decibels brought back memories of another school with a lot of orange
in its colors.
Wright rises above Findlay’s Frank Phillips for a basket
Sunday night. Wright scored 18 points and helped NKU end Findlay’s
59-game home winning streak. The Norse also advanced to the
regional title game against Grand Valley State.
playing at Champaign against Illinois, and it was a sea of orange,
just like here,” he said. “It gets you excited, and
this was fun. It’s similar to a high school game because everyone
is right behind the bench yelling, but it was a great atmosphere
and you like to play in front of a lot of people.”
by Dorian Bass gave Findlay a 54-50 lead with just 3:56 left on
the clock, and it appeared NKU was about to see its season end.
The Norse, however, gathered themselves, became aggressive on defense
and let Wright show everyone why he is the GLVC Player of the Year.
leaper brought his team within a point (56-55) by burying a long
3-pointer with 2:33 remaining. David McFarland then stole the ball
from Phillips in the lane and found Wright sprinting to the other
end of the court.
in for a vicious two-handed dunk to give NKU a 57-56 lead with 1:59
remaining, and the crowd suddenly became eerily silent.
not finish the Southern Indiana game last week. They made plays
at the end, and we coughed up a championship,” NKU head coach
Dave Bezold said. “Our guys knew that, and we have great leaders
on this team. I don’t even need to be in huddle when you have
a Steve Wright letting guys know what to do and where they should
About the only
negative for Wright were free throws during the final minute. He
missed two free throws with NKU holding the 57-56 lead but came
up with a big steal off a clean strip with 38 seconds to play.
with a steal off its pressure defense, but Marcus Parker’s
shot attempt was off-target and rebounded by Wright with 9.3 seconds
left. Wright missed the first free throw, and then hit the second
to extend NKU’s advantage to 58-56.
to win the game with a 3-pointer out front, but the shot missed
and was rebounded by Humphrey. The junior forward was fouled with
0.3 seconds left, and he made both free throws to seal the win and
end Findlay’s dominance in Croy Gymnasium.
the play of Humphrey, who came up huge defensively in the second
Teague kept us in the game in the first half, but we went to Vince
in the second half and he was the steady guy making things happen
defensively,” Bezold said. “Vince positions himself
better than anyone else on the team, and he made some outstanding
plays that do not show up on a stat sheet. And they came against
some really good players, too.”
Teague and Finnell
each finished with 11 points for NKU, which shot 56.1 percent from
the field. The Norse limited Findlay to 37.9 percent from the field
in the second half and forced the Oilers’ into 2-for-9 shooting
from 3-point range during the final 20 minutes.
They also forced
the Findlay students to re-think fodder for future opponent signs.
we could play a game like this against Findlay, and we learned a
lot from the first time we played them this season,” Wright
said, noting NKU’s 59-53 loss to the Oilers in December on
the same exact court. “We were very focused at the shoot-around,
and our coaching staff had us prepared for this game.”
“Findlay is a great team. They are not ranked third in the
nation for nothing. They are so good and consistent, and they have
five guys who can beat you.
wanted to have an opportunity to win at the end, and have some bounces
go our way. They did, and we survived a great battle against a tremendous