Jan. 4, 2005

NKU FACE UM-ST. LOUIS ON THURSDAY

Norse look to snap four-game losing streak

HIGHLAND HEIGHTS, Ky. - The Northern Kentucky University men’s basketball team will hit the road for a pair of Great Lakes Valley Conference games this week, starting with an 8:30 p.m. Thursday contest at Missouri-St. Louis (2-8 overall, 1-5 GLVC).

NKU will also play at Southern Indiana (7-3, 4-1 GLVC) at 4:15 p.m. Saturday.

NKU enters Thursday’s game with a 5-6 record after dropping a 79-69 decision at Michigan Tech on Dec. 30. The Norse, 2-4 in the GLVC, have lost four consecutive games.

SMITH PACES NKU IN SCORING, REBOUNDING: NKU junior forward Derek Smith leads NKU in both scoring (12.7 points per game) and rebounding (5.2 rpg). Smith is also shooting 51 percent from the field.

Senior guard Mike Kelsey is scoring 11.3 ppg and leads NKU in three-pointers made with 16. Freshman forward Harrison Morton averages 11.3 ppg and has made 52.4 percent of his shots from the field.

TRYING TO STOP THE STREAK AT FOUR: NKU enters Thursday with a four-game losing streak. The Norse have not five consecutive games since the 1993-94 season.

During that season, NKU dropped six straight games (losses to Morehead State, Dayton, Kentucky Wesleyan, Southern Indiana, Gannon and Central Oklahoma) from Nov. 29 to Dec. 30. NKU later endured a five-game losing streak (setbacks to Bellarmine, Kentucky State, Indianapolis, Lewis and Saint Joseph's) in February en route to a 12-14 record.

That season was also the last time NKU finished below .500.

ABOUT MISSOURI-ST. LOUIS: The Rivermen own a 2-8 overall record after a suffering an 85-82 overtime loss at Lindenwood (Mo.) on Monday. Missouri-St. Louis is 1-5 in the GLVC.

Missouri-St. Louis features junior forward Jonathan Griffin, who averages 18.5 ppg and 6.7 rebounds per game. The Rivermen also rely on junior forward Aaron Green (15.5 ppg) for scoring punch.

Missouri-St. Louis is 1-2 at home this season and is 1-6 on the road.

THE LAST TIME AGAINST MISSOURI-ST. LOUIS: On Feb. 7, 2004, Ronnie Banks and Jonathan Griffin combined for 31 points as Missouri-St. Louis defeated NKU, 82-62, at the Mark Twain Building.

Banks finished with 17 points and seven assists for Missouri-St. Louis. Griffin added 14 points and six assists for the Rivermen, who built a 44-29 halftime lead and coasted to the victory.

Jesse Rupe scored 20 points to lead NKU. The Norse shot just 32.4 percent from the field and were 4-for-22 from three-point range.

Missouri-St. Louis used a 22-6 run in the first half to build a 30-16 lead on a three-point basket by Sherome Cole. The Rivermen led the entire second half and were never threatened.

THE LAST TIME AGAINST SOUTHERN INDIANA: On March 5, 2004, Southern Indiana scored the final 10 points of the game to defeat NKU, 83-74, in the first round of the GLVC Tournament at Roberts Stadium. It marked the final game for NKU head coach Ken Shields, who announced his retirement prior to the 2003-04 season.

After Mike Kelsey drained a three-pointer with 3:01 remaining in the game to give NKU a 74-73 lead, Southern Indiana’s Billy Harris powered in a layup that gave the Screaming Eagles a 75-74 advantage. Cris Brunson later hit a three-pointer with 2:01 left on the clock to extend Southern Indiana’s lead to 78-74.

The Screaming Eagles converted five free throws in the final minute to seal the victory.

LAST YEAR IN PAC ARENA: On Feb. 5, 2004, Cris Brunson scored 14 points and made a key three-pointer with less than a minute remaining in the game as Southern Indiana held off NKU, 74-66, at the PAC Arena.

Southern Indiana owned a 67-64 lead with the shot clock winding down when Brunson drained a three-pointer with 51 seconds remaining. That shot extended the Screaming Eagles' advantage to 70-64, and Southern Indiana hit four free throws in the final seconds to seal the victory.

TOUGH PLACE TO WIN: NKU has lost seven straight games at the PAC Arena against Southern Indiana. The Norse have not defeated the Screaming Eagles on the road since a 99-87 victory in the 1996 NCAA II Great Lakes Region championship game.

NKU has not won a regular-season game in the PAC Arena since the 1994-95 season, when the Norse rallied for a 96-90 victory over Southern Indiana. At that time, Southern Indiana was ranked No. 1 in the nation.

Derek Smith