Mid-Major Game of Night: Historic Home Matchup for Northern Kentucky

Mark Lathrop

Friday, January 26, 2018 1:34 PM UTC

Friday, Jan. 26, 2018 1:34 PM UTC

Northern Kentucky gets its first ESPN-affiliated home game in program history Friday, and our NCAAB handicapper likes their chances to come away with a win against Oakland.

2017-18 NCAAB Record: 25-19 (+4.75 Units)

Oakland Grizzlies at Northern Kentucky NorseFree NCAAB Pick: Northern Kentucky -7Best Line Offered: Bovada

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The Horizon League gets a rare nationally televised game on ESPNU on Friday night, as the league-leading Northern Kentucky Norse host the surging Oakland Grizzlies in the BB&T Arena in Highland Heights, Ky. It will be the first nationally televised basketball game in Northern Kentucky program history. Northern Kentucky comes into this game 14-6 SU and 12-5 ATS, but also 7-1 in conference play and 8-1 at home. Offsetting this trend is a hot Oakland team which comes into this game winner of 4 straight games. On the season, Oakland is 13-8 SU but a terrible 6-12 ATS, including a 4-7 mark on the road and 2-6 ATS record in conference play. The Norse have opened as 7-point favorites, while the O/U total has opened at 157 at 5Dimes.

Northern Kentucky is one of the better shooting teams in the country and 2nd in the Horizon League in 2-point shooting percentage at 52.4%. They are led in the 2-point shooting percentage department by 6’ 6” sophomore forward Carson Williams, who shoots 63.5% in the field while putting up 13.9 points per game and adding a team-leading 5.5 rebounds per game. Leading the team in scoring is 6’ 7” junior center Drew McDonald, who averages 16.8 points per game. Rounding out the offense is a senior point guard in Lavone Holland, who leads the team at 5.1 assists per game and adds in 13.8 points per game as a bonus.

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ICYMI: Here's another look at Carson Williams' monster dunk in @NKUNorseMBB 's win over Green Bay on Saturday! #NorseUp #TakeNotice pic.twitter.com/2qBnCDxm7b

— NKU Basketball (@NKUNorseMBB) January 21, 2018

These two teams met earlier this season with NKU winning 87-83. For the Norse to win this game, they will have to do something they have never done before, which is beat Oakland at home in conference play. Both teams shot over 52% from the floor in that first meeting, which is more of an outlier for Oakland than it is for NKU. Oakland averages 45.9% from the field overall and 41.9% on the road. It’s not a good split when compared to the 50.5% shooting percentage that Northern Kentucky is putting up at home.

Oakland is led by Illinois transfer and 6’ 3” guard Kendrick Nunn, who averages a robust 26.4 points per game. Nunn is coming off two games scoring more than 30 points and averages over 5 made three-pointers per game. He also has a ton of attempts and ranks 3rd in the country in the highest percentage of shots taken for his team. What hurts Oakland is its rebounding, ranking 9th in the Horizon League on the offensive glass. That is not a good mix with how many shots are going up. In the first matchup, Northern Kentucky enjoyed a 38-25 overall rebounding advantage. With ESPN in the house, I don’t believe that effort will wane for the Norse. I will be backing Northern Kentucky at home as my Friday NCAAB Pick.

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