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NKU women stay perfect in league play with road win

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (WKRC) -- Christine Roush and Kelley Wiegman combined for 26 points, five rebounds, five assists and five steals to help the Northern Kentucky University women's basketball team hold off North Florida for a 57-51 victory to remain perfect in the Atlantic Sun Conference on Thursday at the UNF Arena.

Roush finished with 14 points and three steals to lead the way for NKU, which improved to 9-7 overall and 5-0 in the Atlantic Sun.  She finished 3-for-5 from the floor and perfect from the free throw line (6-for-6), and she connected on both 3-pointers she attempted.

"Christine played very well on both ends of the court, and she did it in a variety of ways," NKU head coach Dawn Plitzuweit said.  "She had some very good shot opportunities, but she also had some great penetrate and kick opportunities for her teammates to get some great looks as well.  I thought she played extremely well tonight."

Wiegman added 12 points, four assists and three rebounds for the Norse.  She went 8-for-10 from the free throw line, including four in the final 30 seconds.

NKU took a 22-17 lead into the halftime break, but North Florida opened the second half with a 12-1 run behind eight Ki Conner points to take their first lead of the game and push the score to 29-25 with 16:52 left to play.  But, the Norse responded with a 16-4 spurt to regain a 41-33 advantage with 9:50 on the clock.

The Ospreys pulled to within two (45-43) on a fast-break layup by Destinee Smith, but Kayla Thacker drained a 3-pointer on the other end to stretch the Norse lead back to 48-43 with 5:44 remaining.

Conner cut the deficit to 48-47 when she hit the first of two free throws and a shot from long range with 3:48 left to play.  A defensive stop and free throw by Larkira Jones brought North Florida even less than a minute later.

Roush's 3-point field goal with 2:43 on the clock regained the lead for NKU at the 2:43 mark for the final time of the night.  North Florida pulled to within two (53-51) once more with over a minute left to play and had a chance to tie the game, but Chandler Merkerson missed a jumper.

Thacker grabbed a defensive rebound and was fouled, but the Ospreys had one to give before entering the bonus.  After being fouled, Wiegman stepped to the free throw line and hit both chances for a 55-51 lead with 30.1 seconds left to play.

Jones had a chance to cut into the Norse lead but missed her first free-throw attempt, and Wiegman sank two more free throws for a 57-51 advantage.  Thacker blocked a 3-point attempt by Conner on the other end of the court, and Melody Doss grabbed the rebound to seal the victory for the Norse.

"I thought we played really well defensively, and we had limited opportunities on offense, so that was important" Plitzuweit said.  "Our kids played with a lot of poise tonight.  Ultimately, we figured out a way to gut out a win on the road when our offense sputtered.  I thought Kaitlyn Gerrety hit some big shots at the end, and that was great to see."

NKU shot 41.9 percent from the floor, including 66.7 percent (4-for-6) from behind the 3-point arc in the second half after connecting on just 1-for 7 in the opening 20 minutes.  North Florida finished with a slight 34-32 advantage in rebounds on the night but went just 6-for-14 from the free throw line.

Runs were the story of the first half as NKU used two to jump out to an early lead.  An 8-0 run by the Norse opened the game, and NKU used a 9-0 spurt to stretch its lead to 19-6 with 8:32 left in the first half.  North Florida, however, answered with an 11-1 run of its own to cut lead to 20-17, and Wiegman gave the Norse a 22-17 lead at the break with a layup just before the break.

Doss and Thacker each scored eight points and pulled down five rebounds for the Norse, who improved to 8-1 on the year when leading at the half, while Gerrety added six points and five rebounds.

Conner scored 18 of her game-high 20 points in the second half to lead North Florida, which fell to 4-11 overall and 0-4 in the Atlantic Sun.  Raneisha Lamar finished with 11 points and seven rebounds, and Jones also grabbed seven rebounds for the Ospreys.

With the win, NKU gained a 2-1 advantage in the all-time series between the two programs.  Last season, the Norse defeated the Ospreys, 57-44, at The Bank of Kentucky Center after dropping a 59-55 decision on the road.

"I think our kids learned from last year when we were here," Plitzuweit said.  "Conner and Smith kind of went off on us and hit some tough shots against us to win the game.  Our kids defensively did a better job of staying down and making them shoot over top of them tonight.  We even tipped a few and blocked a couple at the end there."

NKU stays in Jacksonville to continue Atlantic Sun play with a 1 p.m. contest against Jacksonville in a matchup between unbeaten teams within the conference on Saturday.  Links to live stats, video and audio will be available at nkunorse.com.

Image and information provided by NKU Athletics

 

 

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