OXFORD, Ohio — Dantez Walton, that beardless version of James Harden who plays forward at Northern Kentucky University, continued his prolific scoring binge Tuesday night inside Millett Hall.
Walton poured in 32 points as NKU impressively rolled to a 76-54 win over Miami (Ohio). The 6-foot-6 senior converted 13 field goals in 20 attempts, including 4-for-9 shooting from 3-point range. He netted 20 points in the second half and keyed a 21-4 run that turned a 33-31 lead into a 54-35 blowout with 8:16 left on the clock.
It marked the third 30-point performance in four games for Walton, who is averaging 23.1 points and 7.5 rebounds during the last six contests. He also grabbed eight rebounds and dished out four assists as NKU improved to 6-3.
Dantez Walton drives past Miami’s Elijah McNamara (22) for a basket during the first half of NKU’s 76-54 win. Walton finished with 32 points. (Photo by Jeff McCurry)
“Honestly, it’s a confidence thing,” Walton said of his scoring outbursts, which include a 30-point performance against unbeaten Arkansas. “My teammates and coaching staff put it in me. I knew I had it in me, so I’m just trying to keep this thing going.”
Miami (4-4) had no answers for Walton, who dominated the paint with an assortment of drives to the basket and pull-up jumpers. The RedHawks’ only defense against the native Ohioan was to send him to the charity stripe, where he converted just twice in eight attempts.
But other than the free throws, Walton’s performance ranked somewhere between Harden and Luka Doncic at the collegiate level. NKU head coach Darrin Horn has certainly noticed the impressive performances.
“We really challenged him from Day One, going all the way back to June workouts, that you got to get yourself in great shape and be a guy we look to. A focal point,” Horn said. “Not to get 30 (points) a game, but a guy we can play through.”
Walton netted 12 points in the first half as NKU took a 29-22 lead into the locker room. The Norse held the RedHawks to 30.4 percent shooting from the field during the opening half and limited the hosts to just 4-for-24 accuracy from 3-point range for the game.
Horn pointed out that he was especially pleased with NKU’s defense and toughness.
“We really challenged our guys to build on what we did against Arkansas, even though we didn’t win,” Horn said. “We felt like we took a step with our defense, with our toughness, grabbing the ball and getting loose balls.”
Tyler Sharpe finished with 18 points and keyed the NKU defense with three steals. Adrian Nelson grabbed a career-high 12 rebounds and scored six points, including a 17-footer from straightaway that bounced off the rim and through the net in the second half.
“That was not a play we were running,” Horn quipped, chuckling about Nelson’s jumper.
Tyler Sharpe launches a 3-pointer over Miami defender Isaiah Coleman-Lands (4) in the first half. Sharpe finished with 18 points and three steals. (Photo by Jeff McCurry)
Horn praised Nelson’s dominance on the glass. “As a coach, that’s something you love to see because here’s a guy who hasn’t played much,” he said. “He’s coming off a knee injury, but he’s come out and practiced hard every single day. He has a great attitude, a high-character guy.
“I thought he played with terrific energy tonight, and did a good job in our defense. Grabbing 12 boards is a huge number. I almost lost my mind when he shot the pull-up jump shot, but it went in, so everything’s OK.”
Trevon Faulkner added six points and six rebounds for NKU, which made 61.5 percent of its shots in the second half to run away from Miami. Silas Adheke finished with four points and five rebounds, while Adham Eleeda also grabbed five boards.
NKU held Miami’s Nike Sibande to just five points on 2-for-7 shooting from the field. Sibande entered Tuesday averaging 16.6 points per game.
“I felt like (Miami) had two guys who are capable of being dynamic scorers from the perimeter, so we were worried about that,” Horn said. “It was easier, as crazy as this sounds, against Arkansas because they only had one dude that you knew wanted to shoot. (Miami) has five guys who can hit multiple threes in a game.
“We thought this was a greater challenge for our team collectively on defense. That was a real concern, but I thought our guys really responded to the challenge.”
Dalonte Brown led Miami with 17 points and was the only RedHawk in double figures. NKU held 3-point specialist Milos Jovic scoreless on 0-for-4 shooting from the field.
Walton, the only player in Division I basketball this season to record 30-point double-doubles twice, needed just two rebounds on Tuesday to notch another one. Did he ever glance at the electronic statistics on the scoreboard above Millett Hall, which indicated he was two boards away from another double-double?
“I honestly didn’t [look up at the scoreboard],” Walton laughed. “I promise you I didn’t. I just keep on going in motion and if a rebound comes to me, I try to be aggressive. We had help on the glass with Adrian Nelson coming in and making huge plays.”
NKU is now 10-3 all-time against teams from the Mid-American Conference. Earlier this season, the Norse also defeated MAC opponent Ball State on the road. NKU is 3-0 all-time against Miami, including a pair of wins at Millett Hall.
NKU plays host to Eastern Kentucky at 7 p.m. Sunday. A year ago, the Colonels pulled out a last-second 76-74 win against the Norse in Richmond. Nick Mayo hit a 12-foot baseline jumper with 0.4 seconds remaining to give Eastern Kentucky that victory in McBrayer Arena.
Eastern Kentucky owns a 6-3 lead in the all-time series with NKU.
NORTHERN KENTUCKY 76, MIAMI (Ohio) 54
NORTHERN KENTUCKY (76)
Sharpe 6-15 5-6 18, Adheke 2-2 0-0 4, Walton 13-20 2-8 32, Faulkner 2-4 1-2 6, Langdon 0-4 2-2 2, Eleeda 1-5 0-0 3, Nelson 3-3 0-0 6, Mocaby 1-3 1-2 3, Djoko 0-0 0-0 0, Cobbs 0-0 2-2 2. Totals 28-56 13-22 76.
Bowman 2-2 0-1 4, Sibande 2-7 1-2 5, Brown 5-12 5-5 17, Grant 3-9 3-3 9, Jovic 0-4 0-0 0, Coleman-Lands 0-5 3-3 3, Lairy 3-6 2-2 9, McNamara 0-0 0-0 0, Ayah 1-2 0-0 2, Brewer 2-5 0-0 5, White 0-1 0-0 0, Litteken 0-1 0-0 0, Ritchie 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 18-55 14-16 54.
HALFTIME: NKU 29-22. 3-POINTERS: (NKU 7-29, MU 4-24). REBOUNDS: NKU 38 (Nelson 12), MU 36 (Brown, Sibande 7).
RECORDS: NKU 6-3, Miami 4-4.