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Mercer Knocks Off NKU Men but Women's Team Remains Perfect in Conference

Senior guard Langston Hall scored 20 points and dished out five assists Thursday night as Mercer posted a 74-58 win over Northern Kentucky in The Bank of Kentucky Center.

Bud Thomas added 16 points and three assists for Mercer, which improved to 14-5 overall, 5-1 in the Atlantic Sun Conference. The Bears, who snapped the Norse's home winning streak at five, closed the first half with a 21-4 run to take a 38-23 lead into the break.

Hall scored 11 points before halftime to lead Mercer, which shot 58.3 percent from the field during the opening 20 minutes. The Bears led by as many as 20 points in the second half and finished at 54 percent from the field in front of a crowd of 2,782.

"They just have so much size and experience, and they have already beaten some very good basketball teams," Norse head coach Dave Bezold said. "We started out fine and had a lead for a while, but Hall is an outstanding point guard and does so much for Mercer. We've had to live all year on penetrating to the basket, and they really nullified Jordan Jackson and a couple of our other guys with their length and size when they tried to attack the basket."

Mercer held Jackson to six points, all in the first half. Jackson entered Thursday averaging 15 points per contest and had scored in double figure five straight games.

Tyler White netted 13 points to lead Northern Kentucky, which is 7-12 overall, 3-4 in the Atlantic Sun Conference. White was 6-for-13 from the field and added two steals.

"I hit the shots that were open when I got them," White said. "Coach kept stressing that we had to move the ball and cut harder, so when I got my open shots, the majority of them came from cutting hard and coming off ball screens and being aggressive."

Todd Johnson finished with eight points and five rebounds, while Cole Murray and Jake Giesler each scored six. The Norse shot 42 percent from the field and were 9-for-25 from 3-point range.

"Mercer could be this year's Florida Gulf Coast in the NCAA Tournament," Bezold said. "They have everything you need to win games in the NCAA Tournament, and they do a great job with screens and running their offense."

Northern Kentucky is now 63-14 all-time in The Bank of Kentucky Center. The Norse are 5-3 at home this season.

Northern Kentucky and Mercer split two games last season, with the home team winning by identical 63-46 scores. The Bears are 2-1 all-time against the Norse, and Bezold gave Mercer the ultimate compliment after Thursday's game.

"I think they were harder to guard than North Carolina or Kentucky," Bezold said of Mercer. "They may not be as athletic, but the way they screen and move, and they're so well schooled because they've played together for so long. They just understand where each other will be on the floor. They've got probably the best player in the conference at point guard in Hall, and when you have a point guard that's the best player in the conference, he's going to get you places.

"Hall does a tremendous job not only scoring but distributing and running the club.  He has tremendous size that allows him to play very calmly and get things done for his teammates. And with their size, they have a lot of room for error."

Northern Kentucky plays host to Kennesaw State at 7 p.m. Saturday.

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NKU Women Win at North Florida, Stay Perfect in Atlantic Sun

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – 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 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.

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From NKUNorse.com