Kennedy Igo connected on a three-pointer from the wing with four seconds remaining, helping Northern Kentucky foil Cleveland State’s steady second half comeback and down the Vikings 73-69 on Sunday afternoon in Highland Heights, KY.
With the defeat, the second in their last three games, CSU dropped to 17-3 overall and 8-2 in the Horizon League.
Cleveland State did have a chance to answer following Igo’s big shot. However, after Deja Williams received the ball from the inbound pass, Kailee Davis made contact with the Vikings’ point guard near center court. Williams attempted a one-handed heave towards the hoop while trying to get a shooting foul called, but instead no foul was called, the ball sailed out of bounds, and two Ivy Turner free throws on the other end set the final margin.
“The official didn’t call it, so no, [it wasn’t a foul],” Vikings head coach Chris Kielsmeier said of the controversial play.
That wasn’t the first time Kielsmeier (likely) disagreed with the game’s officiating. In something of a reversal from his team’s usual pattern, CSU’s top-line players got in foul trouble early on Sunday. By the midway point of the first quarter, Destiny Leo, Amele Ngwafang and Barbara Zieniewska each had two fouls, and though the situation gradually subsided as the game went on (nobody went on to foul out and only Ngwafang ended up with four fouls), it did profoundly impact the Vikings’ personnel for most of the first 20 minutes.
“Officials try to do the best they can,” Kielsmeier said, essentially passing on any further discussion of the contest’s refereeing.
Whether the calls were rulebook-perfect or not, NKU took full advantage of the situation, as well as significant edges in other categories that are usually Vikings staples – rebounding and turnover margin – to build a lead that reached 12 points midway through the second quarter before settling at seven by the half.
Lindsey Duvall led the Norse with 19 points, though CSU managed to hold her to 8-for-24 from the floor and 1-for-9 from three-point range. Four other Northern Kentucky players also touched double figures, including all-league point guard Turner (17 points), Davis (13), and Igo (11). Duvall and Emmy Souder each hauled down 11 rebounds, with six of Souder’s total coming on the offensive glass, one piece of a pile of effort plays that seemed to go in the home team’s direction all afternoon.
“We’ve gotta grow up,” Kielsmeier said. “We keep beating ourselves. We didn’t play very hard today, we’ve been a different basketball team the last three weeks.”
“We’ve gotta get better. We’ve really gotta look internally and find what motivates us, because I didn’t think we were where we needed to be from a motivation standpoint today, with what’s at stake every time we take the floor.”
Cleveland State did manage to overcome their partially self-dug hole to claw even at 48-48 late in the third quarter on a pair of Jordana Reisma free throws. They then took the lead for the first time since the early stages of the game at 62-60 early in the fourth quarter when Leo found Reisma underneath for a layup, followed quickly by a Brittni Moore bucket. Moore then gave CSU their most significant late lead, 69-66 with 2:27 left in the game, from the free throw line, though those would be the Vikings’ final points, setting up Igo’s decisive third three-pointer of the afternoon.
Moore led her team with 20 points on a 50 percent clip from the field, while Reisma also stood out for Cleveland State with 12 points, five rebounds, six shots blocked, and uncounted shots altered.
The Vikings, after what will likely be a tough week of practice, will finish their four-game road swing with their annual trip to southeast Michigan to play Detroit Mercy and Oakland, two teams CSU defeated at the Wolstein Center in December. The contest against the Titans is set for Thursday at 7:00 P.M., while the game against the Golden Grizzlies will tip on Saturday at 2:00 P.M.
Kielsmeier undoubtedly hopes to see some sort of shift in his team over the next four days.
“We need to go home and reflect, and try to see exactly how we’re going to handle the week,” he said. “But I will say it on record, this is exactly what I told our players right now, we got outplayed and didn’t deserve to win this game.”