Norse drop home thriller to Akron, 77-76

Photo courtesy of Northern Kentucky Athletics

Second straight loss levels record to 5-5 overall

After a tough 62-59 road loss to Illinois State in Normal, Ill. Wednesday night, the NKU men’s basketball team returned to the familiar confines of Truist Arena with hopes of rebounding back to winning form quickly against visiting Mid-American Conference opponent Akron. 

The Zips (6-3, 0-0 MAC) were not gracious visitors to their hosts, affording the Norse anything but comfort during this 40 minute thriller in a game that saw six lead changes, before pulling out a 77-76 win over the home team in the final three seconds of the game. 

The visitors came in to the contest Saturday night as the team favored by many to win the MAC this season but they had a rough string of games prior to arriving in Highland Heights, losing three of their last four contests after starting the season 4-0. 

The recent skid didn’t stop the Zips from giving the reigning Horizon League champions everything they had.  The Zips led as many as nine points, but the Norse tightened the score up a bit to draw the deficit to four at halftime, 41-37.

The teams wrestled over momentum the whole second half before the Norse snagged the lead from the Zips with 4:16 to go in the game, 70-67.  But the Zips battled back, knotting the game up at 73-73 with 1:29 to go – losing the lead (76-75) with 0:04 left on the clock on senior wing Trey Robinson’s rebound and put-back jumper – and then ultimately recapturing the lead and sealing the win on a fast-break dunk by senior forward Enrique Freeman with three seconds left in the game for the final result.

Senior guard Marques Warrick had another HL Player of the Year-worthy performance, dropping 30 points on the Zips to go along with his 6 rebounds, 2 assists and 3 steals.  Senior wing Trey Robinson broke out for 20 points and 7 rebounds on 9-of-11 shooting for his best showing of the season. 

Despite quality performances from Warrick and Robinson, they could not suppress Freeman and his 21 points and 10 rebounds off of 10-of-12 shooting.  In the process of blistering the nets on 58% shooting from the floor, the Zips had four players score 13 or more in a balanced attack that kept the Norse on their heels most of the game.

The box score paints a very accurate depiction of how the game went…while the Norse shot 48.3% from the floor themselves, matched points in the paint with the Zips (42) and even won the rebounding battle (32-29), in the end, the result of the game teetered on a few keys:  not being able to clamp down on Zips shooters, not hitting free throws (14-of-24) and not being able to match the visitors’ size and aggression on the court when it mattered most.      

By the Numbers:

  • Marques Warrick – 37 minutes played – 30 points – 6 boards – 2 assists – 3 steals – 8/18 shooting (44.4%) from the floor – averaging 19.3 points per game
  • Trey Robinson – 31 minutes – 20 points – 7 boards – 1 assist – 9/11 (81.8%) from the floor
  •  Sam Vinson – 37 minutes – 10 points – 5 boards – 3 assists – 4 steals – 4/13 (31%) from the floor
  • Keeyan Itejere – 33 minutes – 4 points – 6 boards – 1 block – 0/4 from free throw line
  • Michael Bradley – 26 minutes – 6 points – 1 board – 2 assists
  • Jeramiah Israel – 15 minutes – 0 points – 1 board – 3 assists
  • LJ Wells – 14 minutes – 4 points – 3 boards – 1 assist – 1 steal
  • Cade Meyer – 2 minutes – no stats recorded
  • Cesar Tchilombo – 5 minutes – 2 points – longest stint of season
  • Both Warrick and Vinson are averaging 34+ minutes per game
  • Concern For Cade – With only 2 minutes played against Akron…in a game where the Norse were being pushed around close to the basket, which led to an overload of uncontested or under-contested high percentage shots…spent nearly the entire game on the bench with no obvious sign of injury

The Norse hope to get back to their winning ways at home on Thursday, December 14 against University of the Cumberlands (Ky.) – the Patriots are undefeated at 12-0 on the season and compete in the NAIA’s Mid-South Conference.  They are currently averaging 86.8 points per game.  Tipoff at Truist Arena – 7:00pm EST – Watch on ESPN+ or listen at 1530AM radio.

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