CINCINNATI— The Bearcats (3-1) went across the river and took a punch in the mouth from Northern Kentucky on Wednesday night 64-51. It was dicey early, with NKU leading much of the first half in front of a raucous crowd and that energy drove The Norse to a pretty complete win.
Guards like Marques Warrick and Sam Vincent guided the ship beautifully for NKU, dicing UC’s half-court defense in ball screen action.
Time for the Three Man Weave on a loss that moved UC to 9-1 all-time against The Norse.
The Norse’s leading scorer checked that box all night against UC.
Marques Warrick (game-high 22 points) controlled the game and trailed only Chris Brandon (10 points, game-high 16 rebounds) and Sam Vinson (15 points, four steals) in total efficiency.
The 2021-22 All-Horizon League second-team selection shot 9-of-17 from the field and made his presence felt on defense as well. His steady ballhandling got tested with a few turnovers against UC, but he made up for it with multiple blocks on the other end.
Warrick stayed on the ball much of the night, leading all players in usage rate. Brandon didn’t touch the ball as much on offense but was a human vacuum on the glass like he was in his team’s opening two games.
The 6-foot-8 forward leads the country with 14.5 rebounds per game and he won’t be dropping from that spot after this one. His energy and timing are things that only come with a ton of reps. He outplayed Viktor Lakhin in that aspect and was a huge reason for the upset win.
The Norse beyondbounded UC 35-32.
UC Shooting Woes
The defense clamped down for both teams in the final 20 minutes as the cross-river rivalry heated up. Both teams had major scoring droughts with UC missing 9-of-10 shots at one point. But NKU woke up, and UC didn’t.
Cincinnati shot 33.9% FGs and just 28.6% from deep in the game, while scoring a whopping 11 second-half points. The backcourt did not show up in this game.
Mika Adams-Woods, David Dejulius, and Rob Phinisee combined for 13 points on 5-of-21 shooting.
UC came into this contest 3-0, averaging over 80 points. All three buy games they were supposed to win. The first real test of the season was a complete faceplant.
Landers Nolley (seven points, 3-of-11 FGs) started the game well—but couldn’t sustain it in front of the hostile crowd. He went 1-of-4 from downtown to follow up an opening three-game total of 23.1% on deep shots. Overall, Viktor Lakhin and Kalu Ezikpe (3-of-5 FGs) were the only players to hit 50% of their shots.
If Cincinnati can’t find halfcourt answers outside of Lakhin and Ezikpe (at times) then they can’t bank on any wins at a Maui Invitational featuring five teams in the AP Top 25.
UnLakhin The Zone
NKU gave UC fits and starts with its 2-3 zone at Truist Arena and one of the only answers was Lakhin (team-high nine points, nine rebounds). He continued a nice start to the season with more energy and a needed paint presence.
Lakhin broke down the zone starting towards the end of the first half to keep things close and eventually give UC a 40-36 halftime lead. The Norse adjusted in the ensuing 10 minutes, but Lakhin still finished with the highest efficiency and usage rate on the team.
Yet, the free throw shooting did not come with Lakhin on the bus ride (1-of-4 FTs).
UC’s half-court offense was bad in this game, but it may not have shown up at all without the Russian. His need highlights one of the biggest weaknesses against a similar athletic team to UC. NKU could run their best offensive lineups all night with smaller players knowing UC couldn’t punish them with size.
That added offensive boost was prevalent. From the baseline view, Lakhin and UC played sound half-court defense 90% of the time, but NKU cashed contested jumpers consistently to post an impressive 51.1% FG mark.
UC will lick its wounds before starting the Maui Invitational against No. 14 Arizona at 11:30 pm ET next Tuesday.
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