---Harrison Morton soars in for a first-half dunk during NKU’s 66-51 win over UC-Clermont. Morton scored a game-high 23 points as the Norse improved to 5-1.

HIGHLAND HEIGHTS, Ky. - The 3-pointers were not falling for Northern Kentucky University on Saturday night, but Harrison Morton stepped up and made sure the Norse avoided an upset against UC-Clermont.

Morton scored 23 points as NKU cruised to a 66-51 win over UC-Clermont in Regents Hall. The Lexington, Ky., native poured in 18 points in the first half and finished 8-for-15 from the field as the Norse improved to 5-1.

“If it wouldn’t have been for Harrison, it would have been a really ugly game,” NKU senior guard Mark Hawkins said. “He got us off to a really good start and gave us a lift when the shots weren’t falling like they usually are.”

NKU, the top 3-point shooting team in the Great Lakes Valley Conference, finished 3-for-22 from long range. The Norse were 1-for-11 in the second half from 3-point land.

“Our strength is shooting the 3-pointer, we really struggled and that is what allows you to separate and give you the big lead,” NKU head coach Dave Bezold said. “We’re lucky to come out of here with a win the way we shot the ball.”

In the season opener Nov. 16 against UC-Clermont, NKU bolted out to a 15-0 lead en route to an 82-68 win. On Saturday, the Norse nearly equaled that start by rolling to a 15-2 advantage after Morton’s dunk with 13:50 left in the first half. NKU later stretched the lead to 19-4 on a Vincent Humphrey tip-in basket.UC-Clermont, however, countered with a 13-0 run to cut the NKU lead to 19-17.

“John Hurley is a heck of a coach, and I knew going in that he was going to do something different to keep them in the game,” Bezold said. “They felt like they could probably beat us after what they did the last time we played them because they outscored us over the last 35 minutes.

“We get out to a 19-4 lead tonight, but David McFarland gets two fouls and had to sit, and all of a sudden it is a game. What happens in a game like this is UC-Clermont was very patient with the ball, and if you’re not willing to do the same thing and you rush on the other end, then you are going to allow them to get into the game. That’s what happened.”

After making two of its first three attempts from 3-point range, NKU proceeded to hit only one of its final 19 shots from behind the arc. UC-Clermont used the scoring of Stefan Dunn (22 points) to remain in the game, but NKU’s bench contributed 16 second-half points and the Norse extended their winning streak to four.

Travis Rasso scored all eight of his points in the second half, while Hawkins added six of his eight points after the break. Hawkins also buried a big 3-pointer with 8:15 left to give NKU a 49-37 lead.

“It’s like coach is always talking about - getting through adversity. When the shots aren’t falling, you just have to find other ways to put the ball in the hole,” Hawkins said. “We had a few offensive rebounds and went to the basket instead of settling for outside shots.We just have to find ways to fight through it. We came together as a team and found a way to play through the slump, and that’s why we won this game.”

NKU committed just seven turnovers and defeated UC-Clermont (4-7) for the second time this season. The Cougars shot 37 percent from the field and committed 21 turnovers.

Anthony Teague scored eight points for NKU, while Billy Finnell added six points, three assists and three steals. Humphrey finished with five points, six rebounds and three blocked shots.

NKU will play host to Asbury (Ky.) next Saturday at 11:30 a.m. in Regents Hall.