Norse corral the Thorobreds, get back in the win column

Photo courtesy of Northern Kentucky Athletics

Prior to Saturday’s matchup with intrastate opponent Kentucky State, Coach Camryn Volz invited former NKU coach and National Championship winner Nancy Winstel to come and speak with the team and impart some words of wisdom as the Norse continue to fight through a rash of injuries all while playing a very tough schedule. Whatever the message was, it was taken to heart and the Lady Norse went out and defeated the visiting Lady Thorobreds 74-70 at Truist Arena.

NKU, still only dressing nine healthy players, was coming off a string of games – all losses – that saw them play ACC member Pittsburgh in the Daytona Beach Classic, Horizon League favorite Cleveland State at home and Big Ten member Illinois.

Despite those struggles, the Lady Norse entered Saturday’s matchup as the favorite and did not anticipate having a difficult time with the visiting Lady Thorobreds. That assumption was quicky put to rest as KSU matched NKU basket for basket and trailed 22-21 at the end of what can best be described as a frenetic first quarter.

NKU opened the second quarter with a quick 5-0 run to open a six-point lead, but that was quickly matched by KSU with a couple made threes which allowed them to pull even. A few possessions later, junior Macey Blevins picked up an unnecessary third foul and headed to the bench for remainder of the half.

Following a television timeout, bad luck looked to have happened again for the Lady Norse as junior Mitchel- Steen exited the game and was escorted straight to the locker room for evaluation in what looked to be another injury blow to the Norse. However, Mitchell-Steen quickly returned to the floor and was immediately inserted back into the game after receiving the okay from the NKU training staff.

The first half ended with the Lady Norse clinging to a 40-36 lead and causing a concerned look on Volz’s face as she walked off the floor. When asked what she was thinking heading to the locker room Volz said; “My concerned look was Kamari being hurt and thinking that it can’t be. It was also probably some frustration over KSU coming into the game averaging 5.6 three pointers per game and today every time they shot in the first half it seemed to go in.”

NKU opened the second half with a 13-6 run to open an eleven-point lead and forcing a KSU timeout with 6:14 left in the third quarter. That lead would grow to as much as fourteen points late in the quarter, but a couple made shots by KSU cut the Lady Norse advantage to nine heading into the fourth quarter.

The Norse looked to be in control for the most of the fourth quarter until a late 11-0 run by Kentucky State cut the Norse lead to three with 1:24 remaining in the game and forcing an NKU timeout. An empty Norse possession out of the timeout allowed KSU to come down and hit a tying three pointer with under a minute to play setting up a crazy ending.

On the next possession, the Norse were able to get to the line and make two free throws to go up 72-70 forcing a KSU timeout to set up a play to try and tie the game. KSU got the ball into their playmaker on the wing for a three, but Macey Blevins, guarding the ball, was able to block the attempt and get fouled. After a KSU timeout, Blevins knocked down both free throws for the final margin.

When asked to describe the final play, Blevins said; “We talked about it right before in the timeout. We knew they were going to try and get a three. I was just there, I heard their coach yell shoot it, shoot it and I heard it and blocked it and called a timeout.”

The Lady Norse placed four in double figures lead by Carter McCray, Kamari Mitchell-Steen and Macey Blevins each with 17 points and Kalissa Lacy with 16 points. Mitchell-Steen grabbed a game high ten rebounds and McCray chipped in eight.

The Norse shot 50.9% from the field (28-55) and 59.1% from the line (13-22). NKU forced twenty-six Lady Thorobred turnovers and won the points in the paint outscoring KSU 46-14.

Exam week is up next for the Lady Norse. NKU will not play again until December 18th when they hit the road again for a matchup with Tennessee Tech. Volz is looking forward to a little bit of a break for her team all while trying to enjoy the win; “I’m proud of the win, with team morale and with all the injuries, we really needed the confidence and the win. Mental break during exams will be very good, it’ll allow us to heal up some injuries and recover mentally.”

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