The Independent Student Newspaper of Northern Kentucky University.

The Northerner

Women successful in tournament appearance, men lose early

NKU+player+Sarah+Kinch+drives+to+the+basket+during+NKU+Women%27s+Basketball+Throwback+game+in+Regents+Hall.+NKU+defeated+North+Florida+67-29+in+Regents+Hall+on+Saturday%2C+Feb.+21%2C+2015.
NKU player Sarah Kinch drives to the basket during NKU Women's Basketball Throwback game in Regents Hall. NKU defeated North Florida 67-29 in Regents Hall on Saturday, Feb. 21, 2015.

NKU player Sarah Kinch drives to the basket during NKU Women's Basketball Throwback game in Regents Hall. NKU defeated North Florida 67-29 in Regents Hall on Saturday, Feb. 21, 2015.

Kody Kahle

Kody Kahle

NKU player Sarah Kinch drives to the basket during NKU Women's Basketball Throwback game in Regents Hall. NKU defeated North Florida 67-29 in Regents Hall on Saturday, Feb. 21, 2015.

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In their first year in Atlantic Sun tournament eligibility, the NKU basketball teams got their first taste of tournament, and in one case, championship, basketball in the conference.

Both the men’s and the women’s basketball teams clinched a top-four seed in the conference tournaments by finishing in the top-four in the regular season standings. Their seedings resulted in both teams playing host to first round games, which were played at Regents Hall.

The Northerner recaps the Norse’s first appearances in the Atlantic Sun Conference tournament.

Women’s basketball

In contrast to the NKU men’s team, the NKU women’s basketball team found success in their first run through the tournament.

In the opening game, a home game as the third-seed against sixth-seed USC-Upstate, ended with the Norse on the winning side of the scoreboard, 64-45. Melody Doss led all scorers with 14 points in the win, while Kaitlyn Gerrety added 11 points and seven rebounds.

The win was the first Division I conference tournament win for the NKU women’s basketball team. The win also cemented a place in the semifinals for the Norse, where they faced second-seed Stetson.

In perhaps the biggest upset of the conference tournament, Molly Franson knocked down two game-winning free throws to give the Norse the win over the Stetson Hatters 53-52 on the Stetson home court in Deland, Florida. The win was seen as an upset, as the Norse were a lower seed than the Hatters.

Franson was the leading scorer in the game with 14 points, while also pulling down nine rebounds, to lead the Norse to their first-ever A-Sun tournament championship game.

The top-seeded and conference-unbeaten Florida Gulf Coast Eagles awaited the Norse in the conference championship. The Eagles, who clinched the NCAA tournament field in the semifinals due to NKU being ineligible due to reclassification rules, are ranked in the top-25 in the country and recently received a seven-seed in the NCAA tournament.

Despite a career-high 18 points by Shar’Rae Davis, the Norse fell to the Eagles 60-43, to finish with runner-up status, still a high feat for a team that was in Division II only three years ago.

Following the conclusion of the game, Doss and Franson were named to the all-tournament team for outstanding performances in the conference tournament.

The loss means everything but an end to the season for the women’s basketball team. The team was selected to play in the WBI tournament as the #1 seed. The Norse’s first game will be Thursday night at 7:00 P.M. at The Bank of Kentucky Center.

 

Men’s basketball

In their first Division I postseason game, the NKU men’s basketball team dropped a close game to the Lipscomb Bisons 76-73 in the quarterfinals of the Atlantic Sun Conference tournament, played at Regents Hall in front of 1,157 fans.

The game was a heartbreaker, as the Norse took the Bisons into overtime on a Tyler White three-pointer with six seconds left in the second half. White led all scorers with 19 points, while four other players also contributed double-figure point totals.

Overtime did not go well for the Norse, who only scored five points in route to a season-ending loss to the team who came into the game with an identical win-loss record.

Lipscomb went on to the semifinals, where it lost to the eventual runner-up, Florida Gulf Coast.

In the end, the North Florida Ospreys won the championship and were awarded the A-Sun automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.

The Norse will only lose two seniors, returning most of their starters, including leading scorer Tayler Persons and forward Jalen Billups.

However, the Norse will not return with their head coach, Dave Bezold. Bezold was fired on March 16 for unknown reasons. NKU released a statement, saying that a national search for his replacement will begin immediately.

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Women successful in tournament appearance, men lose early