The No. 11 Northern Kentucky University Norse didn't play their last NCAA Division II Tournament the way they would've liked. NKU lost a close contest to fifth-seeded Findlay in the first round Saturday night.
Despite a career-high scoring night from junior guard Ethan Faulkner, the Norse couldn't overcome a strong Oilers defense and only scored 33.3 percent from the field. They were held to just three field goals in the first half.
Faulkner was the only player to score in double figures for NKU, with 24 points. Most of his success came at the free-throw line, as he shot 10-for-12.
“They were staying tight on our shooters and the driving lanes were there, so I was just trying to attack the gaps and get into the lane and make something happen,” Faulkner said in an article on the NKU website.
Findlay never trailed NKU and even scored the first 10 points of the game. In the opening 20 minutes, the Oilers shot 38.1 percent from the field.
Findlay led by as much as 14 points and fought off a late NKU rally to defeat the Norse 50-49. It was the eighth consecutive victory for the Oilers, who are coming off of a Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Tournament championship win last week.
The Oilers shot 41.9 percent from the field, with four players scoring in double figures. Jake Heagan was the leading scorer with 11 points. Heagan also led the team in rebounds with five. Findlay led NKU 26-19 at the break.
Faulkner tried to stage a comeback for the Norse in the second half, getting the Norse within one with a jumper off of a missed Oiler three-pointer at 1:04. With 14.7 seconds left, Faulkner slipped and lost control of the ball. Findlay's Aaron Robinson scooped up the ball with 4.5 seconds left, sending Findlay into a semifinal match up with NCAA Division II defending champions, Bellarmine University.
“We wanted to have our shooters set in a certain spot and for Ethan to read the ball screen and then we just happened to have a guy not in the right spot and he jammed up the lane on us,” said head coach Dave Bezold.
"Those are the things that cost us this game, just a little error like that where we were in the wrong spot.”
Monica Fritsch is a correspondent for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained firsthand.