INDIANAPOLIS (AP)Marques Warrick scored 18 points and Sam Vinson added 16 to lead Northern Kentucky to a 63-61 victory over Cleveland State and win the Horizon League Tournament championship on Tuesday.
The Norse (22-12), one-point losers to Wright State in last year’s title game, advance to the NCAA Tournament for the fourth time since 2017.
Warrick made four consecutive free throws in the final half-minute to give the Norse a seven-point lead. The Vikings (21-13) scored twice in the final 10 seconds but a final 3-pointer came with just 0.2 left.
Trey Robinson added 12 points for the Norse, who outscored the Vikings 21-7 off turnovers, making 14 steals. They sank 16 of 18 at the line to 5 of 10 for Cleveland State.
Tristan Enaruna scored 17 points and Deshon Parker 14 for Cleveland State. Deante Johnson grabbed 10 rebounds.
There were 14 lead changes and 12 ties in a game in which neither team led by double figures.
Leading by seven midway through the second half, the Norse went scoreless for over six minutes but still led by two with four minutes remaining. They then scored consecutive baskets a minute apart, the second on Vinson’s jumper following Brandon’s swat of Ramar Pryor’s layup attempt.
The Vikings got within three twice before Warrick’s free throws.
Vinson and Warwick scored 10 points apiece in the first half to lead NKU to a 33-30 lead.
Four-seed NKU and three-seed Cleveland State finished in a three-way tie for second place with Milwaukee behind Youngstown State. The Norse knocked out Youngstown State and Cleveland State eliminated two-seed Milwaukee in Monday’s semifinals. The finalists split their regular-season series, each winning by a point on their home court.
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