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NKU Women topple North Florida, 78-65
HIGHLAND HEIGHTS, Ky. (WKRC) -- Kayla Thacker recorded her second double-double of the season to lead the Northern Kentucky University women's basketball team to a 78-65 victory over North Florida to complete the series sweep on Saturday at The Bank of Kentucky Center.
Thacker scored 18 points and pulled down 11 rebounds for NKU, which improved to 13-10 overall and 9-3 in the Atlantic Sun Conference. She knocked down five 3-point field goals on the night and dished out three assists. Thacker also collected two steals and went 5-for-6 from the free-throw line.
"Certainly from every aspect of the game, we ask a lot out of Kayla," NKU head coach Dawn Plitzuweit said. "We ask her to defend the other team's primary scorer and guard, and when we play small we ask her to go in the post and rebound. We ask her to do a lot for us offensively, and I think she has responded well and played well because she's focused on what she can do for her team and for her teammates, and as long as that mentality continues, she's going to continue to do great things for us."
The senior guard from Mt. Washington, Ky., led four players in double figures. Melody Doss finished with 15 points and eight rebounds, while Christine Roush added 15 points on 4-for-8 shooting from the floor, including 3-of-4 from behind the 3-point arc. Kelley Wiegman scored 11 points and went 5-for-7 from the floor.
NKU used a 24-8 run midway through the first half led by seven points each from Lauren White and Kelley Wiegman to take a 39-18 lead with 3:07 remaining in the half. The Norse connected on 9-of-12 shots from the floor and were perfect (4-for-4) from long range during the spurt.
In the opening 20 minutes, NKU went 16-for-31 (51.6 percent) from the field and shot 53.6 percent from behind the 3-point arc. The Norse only committed two turnovers in the first half for a 44-24 advantage at the break.
NKU continued to put the pressure on North Florida in the second half by hitting five of its first eight attempts to stretch its lead to 56-32 with 15:39 left on the clock. The Ospreys used a 14-5 run to reduce their deficit to 67-51 at the 7:27 mark. The Norse pushed their lead back to 18 three times with the last coming with 3:13 remaining (73-55), and North Florida slowly chipped away at the NKU lead but could not get any closer than 13 the rest of the way.
"I thought our kids came out and played very hard, and they bounced back a little bit," Plitzuweit said. "I felt like we missed some shots early in the game and our kids had enough composure to keep taking those shots and looking for those shots. North Florida did a great job against us late in the game, and they continued to battle and really kept coming at us. They played really hard, and in the second half I thought North Florida played very well against us. Fortunately, we were able to come out on top."
The Norse shot 44.6 percent from the floor on the night and knocked down 11 3-pointers. It marked the second time in a week that NKU connected on 10 or more treys. Last Thursday, the Norse hit a season-high 14 shots from long range en route to a 72-64 victory at Mercer.
North Florida, which fell to 5-17 on the year and 1-10 in the Atlantic Sun, finished with a slight 37-35 edge in rebounding but shot just 13-for-20 from the free-throw line on the night. After shooting just 31.0 percent in the first half, the Ospreys connected on 50 percent of their shots to finish 40.4 percent on the night.
Larkira Jones led the way for North Florida with a game-high 19 points and 11 rebounds. Brittney Wright added 12 points on 3-for-6 shooting from the field, while Destinee Smith finished with 11 points for the Ospreys.
Lauren White added nine points and four rebounds for the Norse, while Wiegman dished out four assists and grabbed four rebounds on the night.
"The thing I'm most excited about is that our players have a high level of togetherness," Plitzuweit said. "When things didn't go well for us in certain scenarios and certain games, our players have a good camaraderie and they've hung together. For us, I think that attention to taking care of each other is important.
"And, they're the ones that are dictating where we're going with their intensity, their desire, their want. Really, all our job is to put them in positions to understand what teams are trying to do and try to give them scenarios that should help them be successful. And they've taken it and run with it, and that's why this team's had success, and if we continue to have success, that's why."
With the win, NKU improved to 3-1 in the all-time series with North Florida and moved to 9-0 on the season when scoring at least 70 points.
NKU returns to The Bank of Kentucky Center on Saturday as the Norse play host to Jacksonville at 7 p.m., looking to avenge a 67-56 loss on Jan. 18 in Jacksonville, Fla. Links to live stats, the ASun.TV broadcast and Andrew Kappes' audio broadcast will be available at nkunorse.com.
Image and information provided by NKU Athletics