NKU Blow Early 15 Point Lead, Lose in Semi-Finals to Milwaukee, 82-75

by Sean Mackey

After a narrow overtime win over Wright State last week, the NKU Norse (# 5) took on the #6 ranked Milwaukee Panthers in Indianapolis Monday night. The Norse were no strangers to the semi-finals of the Horizon League tournament . It was already a March tradition of sorts for NKU being that this was their 5th straight year of reaching this mark. Marques Warrick was coming off a 35 point game. However, Warrick (4 points) and NKU were unable to repeat the performance and ended their season one game short of the Horizon League Championship falling to Milwaukee, 82-75.

NKU came out the gates aggressively from the opening tip, starting the game with a 9-2 lead. Senior and Horizon League Defensive Player of the Year, Trey Robinson continued his hot streak starting 4-4 from the field and scoring 10 of the Norse’ first 20 points. This included a very nice steal and fast break dunk for Robinson which seemed to invigorate NKU’s offense. However, it wasn’t just the offense. Their smothering defense was especially frustrating for Milwaukee’s star player, BJ Freeman, holding him to just 5 points. NKU scored 18 points off of forced turnovers in the first 20 minutes. At one point they led by as many as 15 points however a late 7-0 run cut their lead to 38-31 at the end of the half. Robinson led the team with 14 points, 3 rebounds, 2 steals & a block. Michael Bradley scored 11 points and chipped in 6 assists. Kentre Pullian led all scorers with the Panthers with 8 at the halfway point.

However, this was a tale of two halves. The Panthers turned up the tempo during the 2nd half. BJ Freeman immediately made up for lost time scoring 5 early points as the game turned chippy. Trey Robinson continued his great play however, Milwaukee finally took the lead at around the 12 minute mark. The Panthers then went on a 10-0 run. Faizon Fields capped off the run with a huge, strong slam dunk over what felt like the entire NKU roster. Milwaukee ran the score up to at one point a 10 point lead. They were getting whatever they wanted inside with little resistance. All NKU could do is foul. The Norse however had one short last run in them that cut the lead back to 5 however could not get a stop in the final 4 minutes of play. BJ Freeman scored 21 points in the final half to lead the Panthers to victory.

Trey Robinson’s final game with NKU ended with a career high 33 points. NKU’s all time leading scorer, Marques Warrick could not get anything going and went 2-16 from the field ending his career with just 4 points. Milwaukee’s Faizon Fields scored 16 points and added 16 boards while star player Freeman ended his game with 26 points.

With this victory over NKU, Milwaukee advances to the Horizon League Championship game to play the Oakland Golden Grizzlies (Tuesday, 3/12, 7pm).

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