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NKU women top USC Upstate, 71-58
HIGHLAND HEIGHTS, Ky. (WKRC) -- Melody Doss scored 19 points and blocked three shots to lead the Northern Kentucky University women's basketball team to a 71-58 victory over South Carolina Upstate in Atlantic Sun Conference action at The Bank of Kentucky Center on Thursday evening.
Doss finished 8-for-12 from the floor and converted each of her three attempts from the free-throw line for NKU, which improved to 16-12 overall and 12-5 in the Atlantic Sun. The junior forward from Greenwood, Ind., pulled down four rebounds and collected two assists and two steals.
Kayla Thacker recorded her third double-double of the season with 13 points and 11 rebounds for the Norse, while Kaitlyn Gerrety scored 12 points on 4-for-8 shooting from the floor. Rianna Gayheart rounded out the double-figure scorers with 12 points after knocking down four 3-pointers in the first half.
NKU used a 26-7 run in the first half to turn a 6-3 deficit into a 29-13 advantage with 5:43 left in the opening stanza. Doss scored seven points during the spurt to lead the Norse as fifteen of NKU's first 16 points came from behind the 3-point arc.
"They've been playing a lot of man-to-man, and very good man-to-man, and a couple of possessions of an extended 2-3 zone, so we practiced against that just in case they went to it, and they started in it," NKU head coach Dawn Plitzuweit said. "I thought our players took a little time to get used to where the openings were and got some really good shots against it."
Over the last six minutes of the opening 20 minutes, NKU limited USC Upstate to just one field goal and a pair of free throws to take a 39-17 advantage at the break for its largest halftime lead of the season. The Norse only allowed 17 points in the first half for the second time this season, as NKU held North Florida to the same total in Jacksonville, Fla., on Jan. 16.
NKU shot 46.9 percent from the field for the first-half lead, while limiting USC Upstate to just 18.8 percent (6-for-32). The Norse knocked down seven shots from 3-point range before the intermission, and the NKU defense prevented from the Spartans from connecting on any of their eight attempts from long range in the opening stanza.
"After they started with the zone, I think we just got moving a lot better," Doss said. "It took us a little bit to get going, and then once we realized we needed to pick it up, things started happening for us."
After NKU stretched its lead to open the second half, the Spartans responded with six straight points to cut their deficit to under 20 at 43-26 with 16:48 remaining. The Norse extended their advantage back to 23 (49-26) on two free throws from Thacker less than a minute later.
With NKU holding a 69-48 lead with 3:21 left on the clock, USC Upstate used a 9-0 run to come to within 69-57 on a pair of free throws by Alex Stanford with just over a minute remaining. But, the Norse were able to hold off the Spartans rally for the victory.
USC Upstate won the rebounding battle by a 50-44 margin and outscored NKU, 21-5, in second-chance points. NKU, however, forced the Spartans into 16 turnovers and scored 19 points off those miscues.
Brittany Clency led USC Upstate, which fell to 15-13 overall and 10-7 in the Atlantic Sun, with 14 points and three rebounds. Valese McAllister added 10 points and six rebounds, while Brittany Starling grabbed 11 rebounds for the Spartans.
Christine Roush finished with nine points and five assists for NKU, while Sarah Kinch, Lauren White and Kelley Wiegman each pulled down six rebounds.
With the victory, the Norse improved to 15-2 on the year when leading the opponent at the halftime break. NKU's 16 wins sets a new benchmark for the Norse during their transition to the NCAA Division I level, surpassing the 15-12 mark set last season.
Image and information provided by NKU Athletics