NKU Women Stay Undefeated in Conference, Beat Kennesaw State 79-51
The Northern Kentucky University women's basketball team used a 25-6 second-half run to cruise to a 79-51 victory over Kennesaw State to remain perfect in Atlantic Sun Conference play at The Bank of Kentucky Center on Saturday evening.
Melody Doss finished with 22 points and five rebounds to lead NKU, which improved to 8-7 on the year and 4-0 in the Atlantic Sun. Sarah Kinch scored all of her career-high 16 points in the second half on 7-for-9 shooting from the field and pulled down six rebounds, which was also a career best.
"I thought Sarah did a great job of getting to the rim and making us continue to be aggressive," NKU head coach Dawn Plitzuweit said. "They switched to a man, and she continued to attack the rim. They played off her, and she hit a three and they thought she would just keep shooting.
"And I've talked about her on offense, but this was the best Sarah's defended for us. She did a great job on their post kids, and that's really where we need her. We're not very deep in the post position, and we've had to play a few different players inside, so we really need Sarah to be one of those kids for us this year."
NKU jumped out to an early 7-0 advantage, but Kennesaw State answered behind six straight points from Bria Young. The Norse then used an 11-3 run to take an 18-9 lead midway through the first half with Doss, the reigning Atlantic Sun Player of the Week, scoring six points during that stretch
Kennesaw State later used a run of their own (8-0) to climb to within 20-19 with 4:26 remaining in the half, but NKU took a 25-21 advantage into the break. The Norse shot just 26.5 percent from the field in the first half but forced 12 turnovers by the Owls for the halftime lead.
"I thought our kids came out and played really hard defensively right at the beginning of the game," Plitzuweit said. "I thought we were getting good shots early on that didn't seem to fall in the first half. Second half, our tempo was a lot better, and we created a lot of opportunities. Christine (Roush) got a couple of breakaway layups and that really helped get us going."
NKU held a 26-25 advantage less than two minutes into the second half before the Norse put together their 25-6 run to blow the game open with a 51-31 lead at the 10:42 mark. NKU eventually built the lead to as many as 31 (74-43), and Kennesaw State would get no closer than 28 the rest of the way.
"Coming out for the second half, the energy totally changed," Kinch said. "I felt like the team was really feeling it. People were talking on the bench, every single shot they were up and clapping, and you could just feel the energy."
With 7:29 remaining in the game, the Norse were shooting a blistering 83.3 percent (15-for-18) from the floor after the break, including 4-for-4 from behind the arc, to gain control of the game. NKU ended the game shooting 46.2 percent from the floor and went 8-for-19 from behind the 3-point arc.
The Norse finished with a 41-34 rebounding margin and improved to 5-0 this season when outrebounding their opponent. NKU only turned the ball over seven times on the night and scored 21 points off of Kennesaw State's 19 miscues.
"Sometimes it's easy when things are going your way to let your scoring get lackadaisical and let the other team score, so that's a tribute to our players," Plitzuweit said of her team's second-half performance. "We felt like (Kennesaw State) was a team that plays really hard, so we challenged our kids to exceed that intensity. Sometimes, when you do that, you don't play as well offensively, and maybe that's what it was in the first half – that we were playing so hard that it was hard for us to slow down and hit some shots. But, in the second half, I thought we got a very good early run that helped us control our intensity."
Roush added 14 points and finished 5-for-7 from the floor, while Lauren White finished with eight points off the bench for the Norse. Kaitlyn Gerrety pulled down a game-high nine rebounds as Kelley Wiegman dished out a career-high six assists.
The Owls placed three players in double figures, led by Deandrea Sawyer's 17 points. Young scored 11 and Lisa Capellan added 10 points and six rebounds for Kennesaw State, which fell to 4-11 overall and 2-2 in the Atlantic Sun.
Kristina Wells, who led the Owls in scoring at 13.6 points and rebounding with nine boards per game entering tonight, was limited to nine points, five rebounds and five assists. On Thursday, Wells recorded Kennesaw State's first triple-double as a Division I program with 18 points, 11 rebounds and 11 assists at Lipscomb.
The Norse improved to 3-0 in the all-time series between the two programs with the win and 7-0 when scoring 70 or more this year.
NKU travels to Jacksonville, Fla., next week for a pair of Atlantic Sun games. The Norse will face North Florida at 7 p.m. on Thursday before concluding the trip against Jacksonville on Saturday at 1 p.m. Live stats, video and audio will be available at nkunorse.com.