A strong third quarter on both ends of the floor propelled the NKU women’s basketball team to a 70-59 victory Thursday night over Youngstown State.
“I’m proud of our ladies because that’s a really good team we just had the chance to play,”NKU Head Coach Dawn Plitzuweit said. “I thought our defensive effort in that game was very, very good.”
Shar’Rae Davis came off the bench to lead the Norse with 15 points, 5 rebounds and 4 assists.
While Plitzuweit was pleased with the offensive production, she was also pleased with how well Davis played on the defensive end.
“I give Shar’Rae a hard time because she really is focused on the offensive end of things,” Plitzuweit said. “She was really focused on the defense end of things. When she plays like that, and plays solid and smart and really defensively helps us and takes good shots. It was such a big factor in this game.
“So we need to see that again,” Plitzuweit added with a smile. “No pressure, though.”
Davis credited her effort on the defensive end for her strong overall game.
“I really wasn’t focused on the offensive game,” Davis said. “Everyone knows I try to score offensively, but (Thursday) I really wanted to focus on our defense. Defense leads to offense. When you get a good stop or when you take a charge, everyone is really excited and wants to go down and score on offense.”
With the win, NKU moves up to 9-8 in the Horizon League. Thanks to two wins over the Penguins, the Norse are now fifth in the league thanks to the head-to-head tiebreaker.
NKU separated itself in the third quarter with a 23-15 period. YSU never seriously threatened the rest of the way.
“Our third quarter was outstanding,” Plitzuweit said. “The kids really came out with some pop and some zip. We got a couple easy buckets. In the first half, it didn’t feel like we were getting many of those looks.”
Sarah Cash, an all-league player for the Penguins, was held to just 8 points. She averages almost 15 points per game.
“I think Courtney Roush did a great job individually on her,” Plitzuweit said. “Our kids on the weak side really rallied to lend assistance. Courtney’s defensive effort on Sarah was outstanding. She’s a tough kid to battle. She’s an all-conference player.”
In her first start of the season and second of her NKU career, Courtney Roush helped shut down Cash.
“We worked on it so much during practice,” Roush said. “We had great practice players to emulate Sarah Cash. I’ve been working very hard on the defensive end. I had really good help on the backside when they were lobbing it to her.
“But I was really focused on the defensive end. I knew Sarah Cash is a great player. I know she can get hot. I’m really proud we held her down that much.”
While the Penguins started off making 6 of their first 12 shots from the floor, they struggled after that. YSU made just 15 of 45 for the rest of the game (33 percent).
“They’re a team that’s hard to slow down because they can score inside,” Plitzuweit said. “They obviously can score outside as well. They run sets that are very difficult to defend.”
With the victory, Northern Kentucky can lock up the 5-seed in the upcoming Horizon League tournament with a win Saturday over Cleveland State or a Youngstown State loss to Wright State.
For Plitzuweit, the main focus for her team is to continue to get better at the most important part of the season.
“What we focused on after coming back from the Wisconsin trip was really improving,” Plitzuweit said. “It’s really important for us as a program to have individual players improve in their games … so we’re playing our best basketball at the end of the season.
“I thought as a team, that was one of our best efforts defensively. That’s really important for us moving forward, that we are getting better at this time of the year. So when it comes to tournament time, hopefully we can position ourselves, but also take care of business and feel confident on what we need to accomplish and how we need to play.”
Thursday, March 3, 2016
@ BB&T Arena, Highland Heights, Kentucky
Northern Kentucky 70, Youngstown State 59
Y — 13 – 15 – 15 – 16 — 59N — 17 – 15 – 23 – 15 — 70
(59) YOUNGSTOWN STATE (fg-3fg-ft-tp) Smolinski 3-2-1-9, Benjamin 4-3-2-13, Arbanas 4-2-0-10, Cash 4-0-0-8, Jackson 2-1-1-6, Newman 1-0-2-4, Trimmer 1-1-0-3, Hirsch 1-1-0-3, Wright 1-1-0-3. TOTALS 21-11-6-59.
(70) NORTHERN KENTUCKY (fg-3fg-ft-tp) Lyttle 3-1-2-9, Ch. Roush 4-1-3-12, Co. Roush 5-1-2-13, Uetrecht 4-2-2-12, Glick 2-1-0-5, Davis 5-1-4-15, Kinch 1-0-0-2, Franson 0-0-2-2. TOTALS 24-7-15-70.
FIELD GOALS: Y 21/57 (Benjamin 4/13, Arbanas 4/12, Cash 4/8); N 24/55 (Davis 5/9, Co. Roush 5/9, Ch. Roush 4/8, Uetrecht 4/10)
3 POINT FIELD GOALS: Y 11/33 (Benjamin 3/8); N 7/23 (Uetrecht 2/3)
FREE THROWS: Y 6/9; N 15/16 (Davis 4/5, Ch. Roush 3/3)
REBOUNDS: Y 38 (Cash 8, Jackson 7, Smolinski 6, Wright 4); N 29 (Uetrecht 6, Davis 5, Co. Roush 5)
ASSISTS: Y 12 (Jackson 3); N 15 (Co. Roush 5, Davis 4)
STEALS: Y 5 (Cash 2); N 5 (Glick 2)
BLOCKED SHOTS: Y 2; N 2
TURNOVERS: Y 21; N 13