Grit, hard-nosed, determination, those were a few of the words being spoken throughout Truist Arena Saturday afternoon after the short-handed Norse took down Marshall 76-66.
Entering the game dressing only eight healthy players, NKU knew it had its hands full with its starting lineup consisting of three Freshman – two of which saw limited playing time to date – along with a Junior and portal transfer.
The Thundering Herd entered the game 1-1 after a 79-74 win over Chattanooga last weekend and looked to expose the Norse’s lack of depth by applying full court pressure after every made basket. That plan seemed to work early on as The Herd jumped out to an early lead forcing a quick NKU timeout.
Junior Kamari Mitchell-Steen was tasked with handling the point guard position in place of injured Kailee Davis and found herself weaving in and out of Thundering Herd defenders most of the afternoon looking to get the ball to open teammates. Mitchell-Steen finished the game with 15 points but more importantly 9 assists. Mitchell-Steen summed how she approached her new role in running the Norse offense; “I tried to remain positive the whole game even if I made a mistake, so I feel like stepping up and being a leader helped a lot with all the trapping.”
Coming out of the timeout, the Norse seemed to settle in and finished the first quarter strong holding a 16-15 lead.
NKU looked to push the pace to begin the second quarter with a handful of long outlet passes to beat the Marshall press, resulting in an early 10-4 Norse run and forcing a Thundering Herd timeout. The Norse outscored Marshall 22-10 in the quarter and took a 38-25 lead into the locker room at halftime.
Both teams traded punches in the third quarter with the Marshall defense causing a handful of turnovers and allowing the Thundering Herd to cut into the Norse lead, trailing by ten heading into the final quarter.
NKU pushed the lead to 20 points halfway through the fourth quarter and held off a late push from Marshall to secure the final margin and a win which head coach Camryn Volz described as one of the best yet. “In my 8 years here, this might be our best team win. I was proud of how we prepared all week. I learned a lot about the team, if I could pinpoint it, I think we are pretty good, we have pretty good Freshman. We are tough we do believe in each other.”
Macey Blevins chipped in 16 to go along with 5 rebounds and Freshman Noelle Hubert contributed 11 points while pulling down 7 rebounds.
However, while the win was a solid one for the Norse, the biggest storyline of the game was Carter McCray. The Norse Freshman controlled the paint the entire game and grabbed what seemed to be every rebound in sight finishing with 25 points and 21 rebounds. McCray’s rebound total tied her for most in the NCAA to date. When asked what her mindset was entering the game, she responded quite simply; “My mindset was to be aggressive all game, box out and get rebounds.” For the game, the Norse shot 52% (30-57) from the field and 50% (5-10) from behind the arc. NKU did manage to finish 52% from the line (11-21).