The task of facing the nation’s best defense in the first round of the NCAA Tournament proved to be too much for Northern Kentucky as the Norse fell to Texas Tech, 72-57.
It wasn’t pretty to start, but the Norse were able to hang around in the first half. Texas Tech’s highly touted defense lived up to the hype as the Norse managed to go just 11-of-30 from the field and 2-of-11 from deep. The length and athleticism of the Red Raiders made it tough for Northern Kentucky to get open shots and really made it tough for them to finish looks at the rim. Tyler Sharpe was really the only player to find a rhythm as he scored 10 in the first half as the Norse trailed 30-26.
Texas Tech’s defense continue to give Northern Kentucky issues early in the second half. Open shots were rare and turnovers resulted in a couple of possessions for Texas Tech to extend their lead. The Red Raiders’ overwhelming athleticism got the crowd into it as the lead was extended to double digits. There really wasn’t an answer for Big 12 Player of the Year and future lottery pick Jarrett Culver, who had his fingerprints all over the game. Midway through the second half, Culver’s 20 points had helped stretch the Red Raider lead to 53-38.
It’s hard to fault Northern Kentucky for their offensive struggles against the nation’s top defense. It was going to take nearly perfect execution to knock off the 3 seed, but turnovers were ultimately too much to overcome. Drew McDonald and Jalen Tate picked a bad day for their worst games of the season. McDonald was just 2-of-13 from the floor in his final college game, while Tate was 2-12 with six turnovers in the loss. Culver led Texas Tech with 29 points, eight rebounds and seven assists.
Northern Kentucky is now 0-2 in NCAA Tournament trips and finish the season with a 26-9 record.