----Steven Wright challenges Julius Vines

HIGHLAND HEIGHTS, Ky. - When Steven Wright decided to transfer to Northern Kentucky University, head coach Dave Bezold predicted the 6-foot-3 guard would entertain the fans in Regents Hall this season and help the Norse win plenty of games.

Wright won over the NKU fans Friday night during a 73-59 victory over a talented Ferris State team during the opening round of the 25th annual John L. Griffin/Lions Club Classic in Regents Hall. The former Bowling Green State standout scored 19 points on 7-for-8 shooting from the field, grabbed three rebounds and dished out two assists in his regular-season debut with the Norse.

“Steven had a great first game with us. When he plays within himself, he’s a special player,” Bezold said. “You are always excited to get that first win, and it takes a lot of pressure off of you. The guys did a nice job tonight against a tough team."

Wright netted 13 points before halftime as NKU built a 44-29 lead at the break. His steal and breakaway dunk with 7:21 remaining in the first half gave the Norse a 29-17 lead.

"We came out tonight and everyone decided that we were going to play together, and we were aggressive on offense and defense," Wright said. “Coach tells me every day that I just have to let the game come to me and slow down. And I played my game from there.”

NKU shot 53.1 percent from the field in the first half and forced 12 turnovers by Ferris State. Anthony Teague drained a trio of 3-point shots and scored nine points before halftime for the Norse, while David Jefferson added eight points before the break. Teague and Jefferson were also making their regular-season debuts for NKU on Friday night.

The Norse led by as many as 17 points in the second half and coasted to the season-opening victory. NKU made 62.5 percent of its shots from the field in the second half and finished at 56.3 percent for the game. The Norse also were 11-for-22 from 3-point range for the game.

----David Jefferson dunks in the first half

"We really didn’t play great defense, and we had more turnovers than I was hoping," Bezold said, referring to his team's 14 turnovers, "but, to come back to our gym and shoot, it’s great because after the exhibitions we were wondering if we could make a shot.

"When you get back home, it’s nice to be able to relax and put up those numbers. Our guys did a really good job of making shots, and Ferris State has a very good team."

James Cripe - also making his NKU debut Friday - scored eight points and grabbed a team-leading five rebounds for NKU, which placed 11 players in the scoring column. Billy Finnell and Kevin Schappell each scored seven points off the bench, with Finnell dishing out a game-high six assists.

Finnell capped the first half by drawing two Ferris State defenders on a drive down the lane and finding Cripe with a great pass under the basket. The 7-foot Cripe powered his way for a two-handed dunk with six seconds left on the clock and gave NKU a 44-29 lead.

"That was a nice way to end the first half. Billy does a great job of penetrating defenses, and his passing was excellent the entire game," Bezold said.

Vincent Humphrey added six points for NKU. The Norse bench contributed 44 points and 16 rebounds Friday night, while Ferris State received just two points from its reserves.

NKU also won the rebounding battle by a 31-21 margin. Finnell led the Norse with three steals.

"I was really proud that there were different people throughout the game that we were able to call on to make big plays for us," Bezold said. "That’s one of the things about this team - we’re going to be flexible, we’re going to be deep and we’ve got a lot of different weapons we can use.”

Terrance Shaw led Ferris State (0-1) with 18 points and six rebounds. Julius Vines and Jessie York each added 11 points for the Bulldogs, who advanced to the NCAA Division II Tournament last season and nearly knocked off top-seeded Saint Joseph's in the first round of that event.

----James Cripe ends the first half in style

Michael Daniels added 10 points and blocked two shots for Ferris State, which is expected to challenge for the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference championship this season. The Bulldogs, who shot 46.8 percent from the field and shot 7-for-15 from 3-poinr range, were picked second in the GLIAC North Division preseason poll.

"We want to play the best teams in our region, and Ferris State is well-coached and has some really good players," Bezold said. "Now we have to step up and play another really good GLIAC team in Wayne State. That's what it is all about, though. You want to see how you stack up against good teams in your region."

Friday's win over Ferris State marked the third straight year that NKU opened the season with a victory over a GLIAC opponent. Two years ago, NKU stunned No. 6 Michigan Tech, 55-53, on a last-second shot by Harrison Morton. Last season, the Norse again pulled off an upset, this time an 81-71 decision over No. 6 Findlay.

NKU now leads the all-time series with Ferris State, 5-0.

The Norse will meet Wayne State at 7:45 p.m. Saturday in the finale of the two-day event. The Warriors dropped a 66-51 decision to Christian Brothers in the other opening-round game Friday night.

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