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Dan Weber: TMU women, NKU men plus Kunkel’s Xavier, UK’s Fredrick all on comeback trail this week

Call it basketball bounce-back week – they hope – for the college teams around here.

And that starts at the top as Thomas More’s top-ranked women, after 22 straight wins as the NAIA’s No. 1 team in the nation, will be working their way back to the winning side of the ledger after getting waylaid Saturday at No. 3 Campbellsville.

(Photo by Dan Weber)

Not that that should have been a big surprise. Campbellsville’s only loss had been at Thomas More, 78-66, just 20 days earlier and the Mid-South Conference Tigers are talented and well-coached. In Saturday’s 70-59 loss, Thomas More, the NAIA’s No. 5 three-point shooting team, hit just four of 27 for 14.8 percent three-point attempts. That’s way below their regular season average of 37.3 percent going into the game.

And without a team that can overpower anyone with its size or physicality, Jeff Hans’ bunch has to be able to knock down shots from long range. Credit Campbellsville with the ability to defend the Saints, except for senior Zoie Barth who hit for 22 points, in this one.

Should make for some interesting future matchups if these two teams meet in the MSC tournament and down the road, in the NAIA, although both will be expected to host first- and second-round NAIA games the way they’ll be seeded. As for this week, the TMU women don’t play again until Saturday at 1 p.m. when they host Wilberforce, a team they beat, 92-41, on the road Nov. 22.

•  TMU MEN BACK ON TRACK: Down to No. 22 in the NAIA national coaches poll Wednesday, the Saints’ men have now won three straight MSC games with a pair of those coming last week – over Lindsey Wilson, 72-64, at home and Campbellsville, 71-57, on the road. With Miami-Middletown at home Tuesday (7 p.m.) and Wilberforce at home Saturday (3 p.m.), it’s a chance for the 17-5 Saints to get their ranking and record up into territory where they will maybe get to host one of the 16 NAIA regionals for the second straight year. TMU beat Wilberforce 74-58 in November.

(Photo by Dan Weber)

• NKU MEN ON THE ROAD AGAIN . . . AND AGAIN . . . AND AGAIN: After a heart-breaking one-point loss Saturday to Milwaukee in a battle for first-place in the Horizon League, the Norse head north to Pittsburgh for Robert Morris Thursday and then over to Youngstown State Saturday. Both teams were defeated by NKU by four points – Robert Morris, 60-56, and Youngstown State, 77-73, in early December at Truist Arena, where NKU is 12-3. It’s the first pair of games in February that has NKU on the road for seven of its last eight Horizon League games.

Away from Truist Arena, NKU is just 2-6 and its 9-3 league record will certainly be at risk after getting swept by a Milwaukee team that is tied with the Norse now. What makes two of those three home-court losses tough to take is that both – to Oakland as well as Milwaukee – were by a single point. And the Milwaukee loss came in a game Saturday where the Norse led by 20 points at halftime.

•  KUNKEL’S XAVIER, FREDRICK’S UK BOTH LOSE: Adam Kunkel, Ryle High’s contribution to the 13th-ranked Musketeers, acquitted himself well in Saturday’s 84-67 loss at Creighton in a week when XU opened with a tough win at UConn. Kunkel, a 6-foot-4 senior, hit on six of nine from the field for 13 points with a team-high seven rebounds. The Muskies return home to the Cintas Center Wednesday for a 6:30 Big East matchup against Providence. Xavier is 17-5 overall and atop the Big East at 9-2.

In a battle of college basketball’s all-time winningest programs, UK’s Wildcats—the second-winningest team, found not much help in playing home at Rupp Arena in pulling down just four offensive rebounds as a ninth-ranked Kansas team, on a three-game losing streak, came in and shot the Cats down. It was a tough night for CJ Fredrick, the former Covington Catholic star, who had been a veteran leader and spark in UK’s four-game win streak before Saturday. He hit just one of eight from the field (zero for five from three-point range) for just two points in 14-7 Kentucky’s 77-68 loss to the Jayhawks. UK is on the road Tuesday (9 p.m.) at Ole Miss and back home at Rupp on Saturday against Florida (8:30 p.m.).

Dan Weber is a sports reporter and columnist for the NKyTribune.

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One Comment

  1. Bill Klopp says:

    Dan Weber— I believe Adam Kunkel played at COOPER not Ryle. Just sayin……..
    Bill Klopp

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