Williams (33) jams home an alley-oop pass from Billy Finnell
during the first half Saturday night. Williams also drew a
foul from Kentucky Wesleyan’s Melvin Beasley (center)
on the play and converted the free throw. NKU prevailed, 61-55.
FOR PHOTO GALLERY
- All streaks eventually end, and no one expects Northern Kentucky
University’s recent dominance over Kentucky Wesleyan to last
But the Norse
- having beaten Kentucky Wesleyan eight consecutive times going
into Saturday’s NCAA Division II Great Lakes Region Tournament
- hoped it would last at least one more game.
It did. And,
as a result, NKU is two wins away from advancing to the NCAA Division
II Elite Eight for the first time since 1997.
its four-year hex against Kentucky Wesleyan with a 61-55 victory
over the Panthers in the Grand Valley State Fieldhouse. The Norse
improved to 21-7 and advanced to meet top-seeded Grand Valley State
in Sunday night’s regional semifinals at 7:30 p.m. Findlay
plays Gannon (Pa.) in the other semifinal.
State is ranked No. 1 nationally in the NCAA Division II poll and
is unbeaten (34-0).
a challenge that is going to be, because Grand Valley State is the
best team in the country and there is going to be a full house in
here to see us play,” NKU head coach Dave Bezold said. “This
is why you play, and it’s going to be a great atmosphere in
Valley State is a special team, and they knocked us out last year
in the regional finals, so we know how good they are and how hard
they compete every game.”
NKU held Kentucky
Wesleyan scoreless for more than four minutes late in the second
half to survive the first round Saturday. NKU owned a 53-46 lead
with less than six minutes remaining after a rebound basket by DeAaron
Williams, but Kentucky Wesleyan (24-8) countered with a 7-0 run
to tie the score at 53-all on a jumper by Rodney Edgerson with 4:42
left on the clock.
would be Kentucky Wesleyan’s final points until a basket at
jumper gave NKU a 55-53 lead with 4:02 remaining, and Harrison Morton’s
driving layup with 1:02 left extended the Norse’s advantage
made a pair of free throws with 19.2 seconds left to give NKU a
59-53 lead, and Teague sealed the win by making two more free throws.
Morton, Teague and Williams each finished with 11 points for the
Norse, who defeated Kentucky Wesleyan for the third time this season.
NKU has beaten
Kentucky Wesleyan nine consecutive times during the past four years.
Rasso attempts a shot.
Wesleyan has a great deal of talent, and they have the GLVC Player
of the Year in Jeff Fahnbulleh, so we knew this was going to be
another tough game,” said Bezold, who is now 9-0 all-time
against the Panthers. “You just want to survive and move on,
and that’s what we did. Our defense did a great job late in
the game, and our guys were able to beat a very good team. We match
up very well with Wesleyan, and it happened to work out for us again.”
a 6-foot-7, 270-pound inside force, finished with 17 points. NKU
senior center Travis Rasso did a good job of helping to contain
Fahnbulleh defensively and added eight points and six rebounds.
has been really solid since we put him in the starting lineup, and
that continued in this game,” Bezold said. “Fahnbulleh
is so strong inside, one of the most physical players I have ever
seen, but Travis held his own.”
started off torrid and built an 11-2 lead five minutes into the
game. NKU, however, countered with a 25-8 run to take a 27-19 advantage
when Morton buried a jumper at the 6:05 mark of the first half.
and Mark Hawkins each came off the bench in the first half and drained
a pair of 3-pointers as the Norse took a 29-27 lead at the break.
Gagai scored eight points, while Hawkins added six.
dished out a game-high seven assists for NKU, which shot 44.2 percent
from the field. The Norse were 6-for-25 from 3-point range but committed
only nine turnovers the entire game.
T.J. Smith scored
13 points for the Panthers, who were 2-for-11 from 3-point range.
Kentucky Wesleyan also made only 50 percent of its free throws.