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Thacker sparks NKU victory over East Tennessee State 73-63

JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WKRC) -- Kayla Thacker and Melody Doss combined for 30 points and 12 rebounds to lead the Northern Kentucky University women's basketball team to a 73-63 victory over East Tennessee State at the Mountain States Health Alliance Athletics Center in Atlantic Sun Conference action on Saturday afternoon.

Thacker finished with 16 points, seven rebounds and two steals to lead the way for NKU, which improved to 6-7 overall and 2-0 in the Atlantic Sun.  The senior guard from Mt. Washington, Ky., finished 4-for-7 from behind the 3-point arc and blocked one shot.

"Kayla got a big steal on the defensive end and knocked down a big 3-pointer for us both at critical times," NKU head coach Dawn Plitzuweit said of the team's captain.  "She pulled down seven rebounds on the day, and she is not one of the bigger kids out on the court, but she just goes out and gets the ball.  This is the last time she is going to play at East Tennessee State, so it was great for her to finish this part of the road trip strong.  She played very well today."

Doss added 14 points, grabbed five rebounds and dished out three assists on the day for the Norse.  Lauren White scored 11 of her 13 points in the second half and went 7-for-7 from the free throw line, while Christine Roush went 4-for-5 from the floor for 11 points.

NKU used a 16-3 run in the first half to turn a 7-5 deficit into an 11-point (21-10) advantage with 7:52 remaining before the half.  The Norse held the Bucs without a field goal for almost eight minutes to stretch their advantage to 19 as NKU took a 43-24 lead into the break.

The Norse shot 56.3 percent from the floor, including 83.3 percent (5-for-6) from behind the 3-point arc, while limiting ETSU to 33.3 percent from the field in the first half.  The Norse forced nine Bucs turnovers in the opening stanza for their largest halftime lead of the season.

"Our energy level was really good at the beginning of the game," Plitzuweit said.  "Our attention to getting back in transition defense and our attention to rebounding was outstanding."

ETSU opened the second half with a 12-2 run to cut the NKU advantage to single digits at 45-36 with 14:36 left to play.  A Thacker fast-break layup after a steal pushed the NKU lead back to 54-41, but the Bucs sliced the Norse advantage to six (63-57) with 5:56 remaining.

White's conventional three-point play extended the NKU lead back to nine at 66-57. However, a free throw by Serena Clark and 3-pointer by Cara Bowling cut the Norse lead to 66-61 with 2:56 on the clock.  Thacker responded with a trey to push the lead back to nine (70-61) with a little over two minutes left to play.

The Bucs were unable to get any closer than seven (70-63) the rest of the way, and two free throws by both Thacker and Roush sealed the victory for the Norse.

"To East Tennessee State's credit, they came back," Plitzuweit said.  "They were down 19 points at the half, and they could have hung their heads but they didn't.  They stayed composed, and they continued to attack. The good thing is our players showed some composure when our lead got cut to five at one point in time, and our kids continued to fight and battle."

Kelley Wiegman finished with nine points on 4-for-6 shooting from the floor for the Norse, who shot 50.9 percent from the field and were outrebounded by ETSU, 36-32 on the day. Kaitlyn Gerrety added six points and six rebounds as NKU improved to 4-0 on the year when scoring 71 or more points.

"Kaitlyn did a great job with her size, athleticism and strength today," Plitzuweit said.  "She played against their two post kids and did a great job of keeping Clark off the boards for most of the game.  Late in the game, Maria Bond was starting to hurt us so we moved Kaitlyn to her, and she really did a great job on the defensive end for us today."

Bianna McQueen led the way for ETSU, which fell to 5-8 overall and 1-1 in the Atlantic Sun, with 12 points.  Bond finished with 11 points and Bowling added 10 for the Bucs, while Clark pulled down a game-high 14 rebounds and scored seven points.

The Norse improved to 3-0 in the all-time series against the Bucs with the win.  Last season, NKU overcame a 14-point deficit for a 77-76 road victory at ETSU.  The Norse will host the Bucs March 8 at The Bank of Kentucky Center to close out the regular season.

NKU welcomes Mercer to The Bank of Kentucky Center on Thursday before hosting Kennesaw State on Saturday.  Both contests tipoff at 7 p.m.  Live stats, video and audio links will be available at 

Information from NKU Athletics



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