Dismantle DePauw at home, 85-68
After a tough 0-2 start on the road, the Norse returned to Truist Arena Tuesday night to pick up their first win of the season, an 85-68 win over visiting DePauw University. The 3,124 fans in attendance were treated not only to the Norse’s home season opener and first win of the 2023-24 campaign, but also the ceremonious unveiling of two new noteworthy accessories that now adorn the Truist Arena rafters – the 2023 Horizon League Tournament Champions and the 2023 NCAA Tournament First Round banners.
The Norse won the tipoff at center court, took the lead just 16 seconds into the contest on a long three-pointer courtesy of senior guard Marques Warrick and maintained a stranglehold on the lead until the final buzzer. Warrick, along with junior guard Sam Vinson, shared the honors as co-leading scorers on the night. The duo both dropped 21 points each on the visiting Tigers (0-2 this season / 18-9 last season), who play in Division III’s North Coast Athletic Conference.
Warrick found his groove in the game early and hit 7-of-17 (41%) shots on the evening, including 4-of-10 from behind the arc while hitting all three of his free throws. He added three rebounds, two assists and three steals to his stat line on the night. For Warrick, this strong bounce-back performance was crucial after struggling from the floor against Washington last week following his 0-for-12 shooting effort against the PAC-12 opponent.
“I just came in (tonight) with the right mindset,” Warrick said post-game. “I feel like I came in with that same mindset going into Washington, but I call it a little mishap because I didn’t play the way I was supposed to play offensively and what the team expected of me. These past three or four days after the Washington game I put in the work and played well in practice and really just looked forward to this game and put that (last) game behind me.”
Despite Warrick’s rough outing in Seattle last week, he is still averaging 15.0 points per game, leads the team in steals (5) and has not missed a free throw (11/11) this season.
Vinson continued his string of quality outings on the season, sinking 8-of-13 (62%) from the field while hitting 5-of-8 treys, a new career high. The Ft. Thomas, KY native also chipped in five rebounds, three assists and a steal to cap off his night. Through three games, Vinson leads the team in scoring at 16.0 points per game, is second in rebounds per game (5.7 rpg) and second in total assists (7).
Supporting Warrick and Vinson in the winning effort Tuesday night were junior post Cade Meyer (12 points on 4-of-5 from the field, 4 rebounds), grad student point guard Michael Bradley (7 points, 7 assists) and sophomore forward LJ Wells (9 points, 3 rebounds). Of particular note, a fast break exchange featuring Bradley whipping an around-the-back pass to Meyer for a thunderous dunk made SportsCenter’s “Top 10” plays on the day, coming in at the #4 spot.
The Norse went into halftime up by 13 on the Tigers, 42-29, but at the 11:57 mark in the first half the game was still a two-possession affair as the home team took time to heat up. Throughout the second half, the Norse began to slowly stretch the lead out further, but the lower-division visitors were not willing to graciously hand the game over to the home team.
The Tigers nearly matched the Norse blow for blow in the second stanza. Down the final stretch closing out the second half, the Tigers were outscored by only four points (43-39) while matching the Norse in points in the paint (30), keeping a nearly-even rebounding margin (just -1) and taking ample opportunity of Norse miscues en route to winning the points-off-turnovers battle (16-15, +1).
After the game, Norse Head Coach Darrin Horn stated he was pleased to get the win while putting 85 points on the scoreboard, stating “I think we attacked the rim pretty good tonight, we took what the defense gave us and we got a lot out in transition. And I think that was more about how defended we were than how we played offensively.” While optimistic, Horn also voiced concern over how his team handled the ball and played on the defensive end of the court against a highly outclassed opponent.
“Defensively, we still have a lot of work to do,” Horn said. “We’re not as aggressive as we want to be for us to be our best, although that will come. We’ve got to keep working on it, but defensively we’ve really got to make some strides….we’ve got to defend the paint much better than we did tonight. We’re not going to beat anybody good the way we played defense tonight.”
The Norse have four days to prepare for their next game, a road tilt across the river at University of Cincinnati, who now compete in the Big 12 conference. The Bearcats (3-0) have defeated all three of their early season D-I opponents by double-digit margins and are averaging 82.3 points per contest thus far. The black and red will surely be looking for redemption after being decked by NKU last season, 64-51, in Highland Heights.
The 2:00PM EST game will be televised nationwide on ESPN+ or can be heard on local ESPN 1530 AM radio.