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NKU women drop close contest to Ball State

HIGHLAND HEIGHTS, Ky. (WKRC) -- Shelbie Justice and Nathalie Fontaine combined for 34 points and 16 rebounds to lead the Ball State University women's basketball team to a 67-63 victory over Northern Kentucky University on Saturday afternoon at The Bank of Kentucky Center.

Justice scored a game-high 20 points on 9-for-13 shooting from the floor and collected four rebounds and three steals to lead Ball State (4-6).  Fontaine finished with 14 points and tied her career-high of 12 rebounds for the Cardinals.

Lauren White led NKU (4-7) with 17 points, one shy of her career best, and finished 4-for-6 from 3-point range, while Melody Doss added 13 points and seven rebounds for the Norse.

"Defensively, (Lauren) can really guard kids and pressure them," NKU head coach Dawn Plitzuweit said.  "I think she can make things happen for us and tonight she found her rhythm offensively, and that's great to see."

After taking a 26-22 lead into the halftime break, Ball State opened the second half with a 10-2 run to stretch its lead to 36-24 with 17:10 remaining in the game.  A 10-4 spurt by NKU cut the Ball State lead to four (38-34) less than five minutes later, but 10 consecutive points by the Cardinals stretched their lead back to double digits, eventually taking 55-40 lead with 7:08 remaining.

NKU then cut the Ball State lead to three (57-54) courtesy of a 14-2 run, but Justice drained a 3-point field goal to push the lead to 60-54 with 3:52 left to play.  The Cardinals extended their lead to eight (64-56) with just over two minutes left, but the Norse responded with seven straight points to come within 64-63 on a layup by Doss.

Justice hit a layup to stretch the Ball State lead to 66-63 with 23 seconds left, and NKU had two opportunities at the basket on the following possession but could not convert.  Jill Morrison stepped to the line and connected on one of two free throw opportunities to seal the victory.

"I thought our kids played extremely hard," Plitzuweit said.  "I thought we had some opportunities in the second half, when things weren't going our way, to hang our heads and feel sorry for ourselves and give in, but our kids didn't.  They played extremely aggressively down the stretch and made things happen and fought to get themselves back in the game after digging themselves in a hole and finally started to shoot the ball late in the game."

Ball State took an early 13-4 advantage with 9:21 left in the first half on a Renee Bennett basket, but NKU responded with an 18-7 run, led by seven points from Kaitlyn Gerrety, to take a 22-20 lead with less than four minutes remaining in the half.  The Cardinals, however, responded with six straight points for the halftime advantage.

Bennett score 12 points on 5-for-6 shooting from the field and pulled down five rebounds, and Brandy Woody chipped in 10 points for the Cardinals.

Kayla Thacker grabbed a team-high 11 rebounds and blocked two shots, while Kaitlyn Gerrety finished with nine points and two blocked shots for the Norse.

NKU's freshmen combined for 32 points on the day.  In addition to White's 17-point effort, Morgan Blair scored a career-high eight points and Kelley Wiegman added seven.

Ball State outrebounded NKU by a 45-35 margin and shot 51.9 percent from the field on the day.  The Cardinals limited the Norse to 29.4 percent from the floor and 8-for-29 from behind the 3-point arc.

The Norse forced Ball State into 22 turnovers, while only committing six of their own, and scored 28 points off the miscues.

NKU and Ball State have each won one game apiece in the all-time series between the two schools.  Last season, the Norse earned a 69-67 victory in Muncie, Ind., in the first-ever meeting on Dec. 8, 2012.

"Our non-conference schedule is really tough," Plitzuweit said.  "Ball State finished second in their league last year, and they're a very good team.  And last year, to beat them at their place, we shot the ball extremely well.  To say we didn't shoot it well while we were in the game must mean that we are doing some things that are good, and I think that's going to prepare us for our conference play that comes up pretty soon."

Image and information courtesy NKU Athletics




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