NKU Loses Heartbreaker to Akron at Home, 77-76
by Sean Mackey
While the City of Cincinnati was duking it out over at Cintas across the river, the NKU Norse were looking to take care of business in the 859. The visiting Akron Zips were in town coming off of a win against Bradley on Tues. The Norse were nursing a 3 point loss to IL State on Tuesday. Unfortunately, NKU dropped their second straight with a heartbreaking, 77-76 loss to the Zips.
The first half was as fast paced as it gets. Both teams started off aggressively. A couple of big dunks from the Zips would have seemed deflating to some teams, but NKU refused to go away. Akron built at one point a 9 point lead but NKU cut it to 3. Enrique Freeman put on a show by going 7-9 from the field with 15 points and 7 rebounds. Ali Ali chipped in 11 points as well during the first half. NKU senior, Marques Warrick kept NKU in the game with 14 points at the end of the 1st half.
The 2nd half was as action packed as they get. Both teams refused to give up an inch. While Akron led for the majority of the final 20 minutes, the Norse would not go away. Marques Warrick put the team on his back and dragged them uphill for the remainder of the contest. However, Akron answered every NKU basket with one of their own. If NKU hit a 3 pointer, Akron did the same. If they fouled the Norse, the Norse fouled them back. It wasn’t until the final 5 minutes when NKU forward, Trey Robinson hit a 3 pointer to give the Norse a 70-67 lead. Immediately after the basket, Warrick was fouled and hit 2 free throws to pad the lead to 5.
The Zips rallied back though. Sammy Hunter hit a 3 pointer to tie the game. Sam Vinson of NKU then hit a free throw to give the Norse a 1 point, 75-74 lead and then it was immediately countered with a layup by Greg Tribble of Akron. With 14.9 seconds remaining, the Zips threw the ball in but it was immediately stolen by Vinson. A pass to Trey Robinson led to an inside basket to give the Norse a 76-75 lead. The crowd was alive with the prospect of a comeback victory. However, with 9 seconds left, Akron ran the ball up the floor and quickly passed it to Enrique Freeman who then threw down a highlight reel, posterizing dunk on Keeyan Itejere to win the game 77-76.
Freeman led the Zips with 21 points and 10 rebounds. Sammy Hunter added 20 points and Ali Ali had 13. Marques Warrick led the Norse with 30 points. Trey Robinson ended the game with 20 points and 7 rebounds.
After the game, NKU’s Trey Robinson said “It was a tough one. It hurt. I was so invested in this game and just wanted to play as hard as possible. You had to fight for every single rebound.” NKU head coach, Darrin Horn said it was “an incredible basketball game. Two teams answered back and forth like a big time heavyweight fight. Really proud of the guys tonight. If that wasn’t a March type atmosphere, I don’t know what is. Marques Warrick made more free throws than the opponent attempted tonight. Great college basketball game but they made one more play”. Horn had nothing but praise for Freeman stating “he’s as big as you get and he played fantastic”.
Northern KY looks to bounce back against the University of the Cumberland next Thursday (12/14, 7:00 p.m. ESPN+).