Sophomore Darien Gay had 11 points in FSU's season-opening setback Saturday at Northern Kentucky
The Ferris State University men's basketball team gave nationally-ranked regional opponent Northern Kentucky all it could handle for much of the game before the Norse eventually pulled out a 72-57 non-league triumph over the Bulldogs in the official season opener for both teams Saturday (Nov. 15) afternoon in Highland Heights, Ky.
The Bulldogs trailed 38-27 at halftime despite shooting only 34% from the floor in the opening stanza and cut a 13-point deficit down to only four points with 8:45 to go in the game, but NKU was able to go on a 15-2 run to put the game away in the first-ever regular season contest played inside NKU's new state of the art Bank of Kentucky Center. A crowd of 2,477 was on hand in the nearly 10,000-seat facility.
NKU, which suffered a hard-fought 84-69 home exhibition setback last Saturday (Nov. 8) to NCAA Division I Big East Conference member Louisville, entered the game ranked fourth nationally in the Division II Bulletin preseason poll along with sixth in the National Association of Basketball Coaches Division II Top 25 Rankings. Ferris was not ranked, but listed second (number 27) among other teams receiving votes in the NABC poll.
FSU led by seven points only 4:15 into the game before Northern Kentucky took the lead for good with 11 minutes to go in the opening half.
Ferris forced 14 turnovers although 12 of those came in the first half as the Norse of the Great Lakes Valley Conference (GLVC) had only two miscues in the final 20 minutes of play. The Bulldogs were limited to 33.3% (19-57) shooting for the game while Northern Kentucky shot 44.7% (21-47) and connected on nine-of-22 (40.9%) three-point attempts.
Junior transfer guard Josh Young paced the Bulldogs with 18 points, sophomore center Justin Keenan netted 16 points and sophomore guard Darien Gay tallied 11 points for FSU. Dustin Maguire led the way for the Norse with a game-high 28 points and nine rebounds with Tony Rack chipping in 16 points.
"Ferris is going to be a good basketball team and gave us a fight," NKU head coach Dave Bezold said. "We were very fortunate we had enough bodies and could send some fresh guys at Keenan throughout the game."
NKU outrebounded Ferris 37-30 for the contest and also sank 21-of-26 (80.8%) free throws as the Bulldogs were called for 23 personal fouls. FSU was 15-of-18 (83.3%) at the stripe, but only four-of-15 (26.7%) behind the three-point arc. Ferris turned the ball over 12 times.
The Norse shot 52.4% (11-21) from the floor in the first period,including a six-of-12 (50.0%) showing from three-point land.
Northern Kentucky recorded 17 assists, four blocked shots and three steals compared to Ferris' 10 assists, four steals and three blocks.
The win enabled the Norse to improve to 7-0 all-time against the Bulldogs.
Ferris State returns home and will host another GLVC opponent in St. Joseph's (Ind.) in its home opener on Thursday, Nov. 20, with tipoff set for 7:30 p.m. (EST) inside FSU's Jim Wink Arena at Big Rapids, Mich.