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Charleston Ousts NKU from Women's Basketball Invitational, 72-70

A torrid shooting performance by Alyssa Frye in the second half Wednesday night helped the College of Charleston to end Northern Kentucky University's season in the first round of the Women's Basketball Invitational.

Frye scored all 20 of her points in the second half, including a crucial 3-pointer with 1:31 remaining in the game, as the College of Charleston held on for a 72-70 win over Northern Kentucky in The Bank of Kentucky Center. Frye buried six shots from 3-point range after halftime as the Cougars improved to 16-15 and advanced to the second round of the WBI.

“I thought our kids found a way to really dig themselves back into that game.  It didn't look very promising when we were down 16 in the second half, but we battled and fought and found a way to get back in it,” Northern Kentucky head coach Dawn Plitzuweit said. “Unfortunately, two things happened. (Alyssa Frye) got open for two threes that really hurt us.  Then they missed a three but got an offensive rebound.  But, I'm really proud of our players' effort and tenacity tonight and throughout the season.”

Northern Kentucky had sliced a 16-point College of Charleston lead to 67-65 on a basket by Kayla Thacker with 1:57 left. The Norse then forced a missed jumper by Afreyea Tolbert, but Jillian Brown scooped up the offensive rebound. She passed out front to a wide-open Frye, who buried her sixth trey of the game to extend the College of Charleston advantage to 70-65 with 1:31 remaining.

“Frye made a number of big shots for them in the second half, and that one was big because we had just made a good defensive stand.” Plitzuweit said.

Rianna Gayheart countered with a 3-pointer to cut the College of Charleston lead to 70-68 with 1:17 left on the clock. The Cougars owned a 71-68 advantage with 13.7 seconds remaining, but Tiara Hopper drew a foul and made both free throws to make it a 71-70 game.

The Norse fouled immediately fouled Brown, who made one of two free throws to extend the Cougar lead to 72-70. Thacker missed a jumper in the lane with six seconds left, and Brown grabbed the rebound to give the visitors the first-round win.

Frye's 20 points led the Cougars, who won the rebounding battle by a 52-39 count. Tolbert added 16 points, eight rebounds and five assists, and Latisha Harris scored 14 points. The visitors pulled down 19 offensive boards and won despite shooting 4-for-12 from the free-throw line.

Ellen Holton led Northern Kentucky (15-13) with 21 points and three blocked shots, while Thacker scored 15 points and added two blocks. Hopper finished with 11 points and eight rebounds for the Norse, who surpassed all expectations by earning a berth in the WBI as a first-year Division I program.

“Nobody thought we would be in the postseason; I don't think even some of us thought we would be in the postseason,” said Holton, who finished with 777 career points in three seasons with the Norse.  “Just to get that opportunity and the opportunity to play for Northern, coach (Nancy) Winstel and Coach P., it's just been great.  I've had a good time here.”

The Norse shot 41.8 percent from the field, compared to 40 percent for the Cougars. The loss snapped a four-game winning streak for Northern Kentucky, which posted a 9-4 record at home this season.

“I certainly believe we were challenged heading into this year, and we were on the road quite a bit early on.  It certainly tested everyone's character and toughness and, again, our players showed a great deal of intensity and desire and commitment and they found a way,” Plitzuweit said.  “I am really proud of that – the toughness, the togetherness, the tenacity that they showed throughout the season, the way they took care of each other.

“I'm really proud of our staff because I thought they worked extremely hard during the season to prepare our kids for every battle and every game.   And the players have responded very well.   I think the community has really embraced our program and the transition into Division I.  That is a really special feeling and this is a great place, and we are really hoping to build.”

Northern Kentucky loses four seniors – Hopper, Holton, Jaimie Hamlet and Kelsey Simpson – off this season's team. Hamlet became just the eighth player in Norse history to make 100 3-pointers in a career when she drained a trey in the second half. She finished her career with 100 treys to move into sole possession of eighth place all-time in school history.

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Source: NKU Sports Information

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