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NKU men’s basketball faces tough road game against traditional power Memphis on Saturday night

By Don Owen
NKyTribune reporter

Northern Kentucky University’s trip to the Bahamas last weekend included convincing neutral-court victories against Iona and James Madison, and a heartbreaking loss to Vermont in the final seconds of the championship game.

After winning twice in the three-day Islands of the Bahamas Showcase, NKU now focuses on an opponent with a mammoth pedigree and vast history of success, the University of Memphis Tigers.

NKU and Memphis clash at 6 p.m. Saturday in Memphis, Tenn., at the FedExForum. It will mark the first-ever meeting between the Norse and Tigers.

NKU’s Lavone Holland II

NKU enters Saturday’s game with a 4-1 record. Memphis is 2-1 after knocking off New Orleans, 62-52, on Tuesday night at the FedExForum. Senior swingman Jimario Rivers led the Tigers to the win over New Orleans with 18 points and seven rebounds.

The Norse watched their unbeaten start to the season end at four games Sunday night as Vermont rallied from a 13-point deficit in the final nine minutes of the second half to pull out a 66-64 win. Trae Bell-Haynes made a short jumper in the lane with three seconds remaining to snap a 64-all tie and give Vermont the victory.

Drew McDonald’s basket with 9:02 left in the game gave NKU a 59-46 lead, but Vermont countered with a 12-0 run to get cut the Norse advantage to 59-58. Lavone Holland II buried a 3-pointer with 5:42 remaining to extend NKU’s lead to 62-58, but Vermont stormed back with six straight points to take a 64-62 advantage on Payton Henson’s basket with 2:23 left on the clock.

McDonald made a pair of free throws with 1:54 remaining to knot the score at 64-all. NKU had three chances to regain the lead in the final 1:37 of the game but misfired on each attempt, setting the stage for Bell-Haynes and his winning basket.

Holland II scored 14 points to lead NKU, which shot 46.3 percent from the field. Carson Williams added 12 points for the Norse, while McDonald finished with 10 points and six rebounds. NKU defeated both James Madison and Iona to reach the championship game.

McDonald, a junior forward and Newport Central Catholic High School product, leads NKU in scoring at 15.2 points per game. He also tops the Norse in rebounding at 7.0 boards per contest.

Holland II averages 15.0 points and has dished out a team-leading 24 assists. He has also made a team-leading 11 shots from 3-point range. The senior guard has also converted 24 of 27 (.889) of his free-throw attempts. He was named to the all-tournament team for NKU.

Williams, a sophomore forward, leads NKU in field-goal percentage at .650, and he averages 13.2 points per game. The Owen County High School graduate also grabs an average of 5.6 rebounds per contest.

NKU returns home next week to play host to Berea on Wednesday (Nov. 29) at 7 p.m. In-state rival Morehead State then visits NKU on Dec. 2 at 7 p.m.

Contact Don Owen at don@nkytrib.com

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