NKU Win 3rd Straight With Victory Over Green Bay Phoenix, 74-52
by Sean Mackey
It was Ken Shields/Nancy Winstel night at Truist Arena Saturday evening. The NKU Norse honored their former coaches with a halftime ceremony, a banner and a 74-52 win over the number one seed, Green Bay Phoenix.. Truist was packed to the brim in certain areas of the arena. The Norse were coming off 2 hard fought victories including one just Thursday night over the Milwaukee Panthers. The Phoenix entered the game on a 3 game win streak of their own.
During the first 20 minutes of action, the Norse refused to let the Phoenix get started in any way starting with a 6-0 run that included a nice slam from Keeyan Itejere. However, the half was riddled by common foul slowdowns and an array of time outs. Marques Warrick showed why he’s the one of the best, if not the best player currently playing in the Horizon League, dropping 13 points on Green Bay during the first half. In what is becoming a common occurrence at NKU games, Keeyan Itejere caught a huge lob from Trey Robinson for a jam. His highlight reel antics are starting to really wake up the Norse fans over at Truist and is quickly becoming a fan favorite. Itejere finished the half with 7 points, 3 rebounds and 2 blocks. At one point the Norse pushed the lead to 10 points and held the Phoenix to just 9-27 shooting while shooting a resounding 53% themselves. Heading into halftime, NKU led 33-25.
The second half was almost a deja vu situation from Thursday’s second half. The Norse ran up the lead and didn’t look back. While Warrick struggled from the 3 point line, he continued to lead the team in scoring and dropped 21 on the Phoenix. Green Bay continued to struggle from the field and started to get frustrated late in the game and committed fouls. 15 fouls over the final half to be exact. At one point, an NKU 3 point make also resulted in a personal foul away from the ball which effectively turned into a 5 point play. The Norse outscored the Phoenix 41-27 and at one point led by 25 points. Keeyan Itejere continued his good game streak as well ending with 13 points, 6 rebounds and 3 blocks. Trey Robinson struggled from the field but had a very effective game elsewhere, ending the game with 5 points, 6 rebounds, 4 steals and 3 assists. LJ Wells continues to excel as a starter in place of Sam Vinson shooting 5-7 and dropping 15 points along with 3 rebounds and 2 steals. Elijah Jones led the Phoenix with 11 points and 4 rebounds.
After the game, LJ Wells said “I keep trying to play with a level head and doing what I’m good at. Being consistent at that has helped my game.” Keeyan Itejere said “Everything It started with the coaches being confident because I didn’t have that many minutes under my belt and the more experience I get the more confident I’m getting”
After the game, NKU Head Coach, Darrin Horn said “It was great to see such a good crowd to honor two NKU legends with Nancy (Winstel) & Ken (Shields). I mean you talk about 2 people that literally put us on the map and have this Division 1 program because of. So happy to see them honored in the way they deserve to be honored. Really proud of our guys for the effort from start to finish. We’re talking about a team that scored 90 points on Thursday night and we knew (Green Bay) were really dangerous coming in, especially shooting the 3. We’ve been challenging our guys that we have to defend better than we have been to be our best. If we do that it’ll help us offensively as well and I think we really did that tonight. We’ve got a lot of things we gotta get better at but you go down the box score and it’s a pretty complete effort in terms of individuals contributing, 4 guys in double figures and doing a lot of the little things to be our best.”
The Norse next take on the visiting Fort Wayne Mastodons next Thursday at Truist Arena (1/25, 7pm, ESPN+).