The Northern Kentucky Men's Basketball team played three exhibition games against Division I programs in order to prepare for the regular season.
First, the Norse traveled to Huntington, West Virginia to take on the Marshall University Thundering Herd.
The Norse led the Thundering Herd at halftime, 32-27. Senior guard Jon Van Hoose scored 11 of his 17 total points in the first half, including a trio of three pointers.
However, Marshall stepped up their defense in the second half, allowing NKU to score just three points in the first 10 minutes on the way to a 65-55 victory.
"Marshall has tremendous size and they did not allow us to get any easy baskets," head coach Dave Bezold said.
"We stopped getting the ball in the paint and settled for long jump shots," Van Hoose said. "It was a tough way to end the game but we learned from it."
They took the lessons from the Marshall loss into the next exhibition game against West Virginia University. Heading in, NKU was 0-18 in exhibition games against Division I programs. NKU lead by as much as 17 points in the first half, but it was a tight contest in the second.
WVU senior guard Darryl Bryant tied up the game at 74-74 with 6.3 seconds left in the game. Then NKU's Eshaunte "Bear" Jones took the brunt of the pressure, sinking a 25-foot basket with 1.1 seconds left. WVU was unable to answer and NKU notched their first exhibition win against a Division I opponent.
"Playing on the road against that type of opponent, you just hope to stay close," Bezold said.
"We wanted it more than them and it felt good to be a part of such a big win," Van Hoose said.
Taking momentum and confidence with them, the Norse played their last game of the exhibition series against the University of Cincinnati. UC is currently ranked No. 21 in the Associated Press poll.
"Going into UC, we believed we could make it a tough game for them," Bezold said.
All of the confidence in the world couldn't help NKU score another upset, as they went down to UC, 66-54.
Sophomore forward Justin Jackson and senior center Yancy Gates were too much for the Norse, getting a combined 43 points and 21 rebounds.
Toward the end of the game, Van Hoose and Jones tried to rally the team by making four three-pointers between them. However, four straight missed baskets toward the end sealed the fate of NKU.
In their first regular season game, NKU will take on UC-Clermont on Saturday at 1:30 p.m. at the Bank of Kentucky Center.