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USC Upstate ends NKU season in WBI opener

Matt Sexton, Sports Editor

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Rianna Gayheart directs traffic during NKU's loss to USC Upstate.

USC Upstate erased a 12-point halftime deficit Thursday to end NKU’s season with a 71-69 win over the Norse in the opening round of the Women’s Basketball Invitational.

The Norse ends its season 19-14.

“It’s frustrating,” NKU Head Coach Dawn Plitzuweit said. “It’s tough. It’s a tough way for our kids to go out when you’ve had a very good year. We’ve played some very good basketball, and unfortunately for us, Upstate played very, very well and we didn’t match it in the second half.”

NKU led by 10, 49-39, with 6:43 remaining in the third. USC Upstate started chipping away at the Norse lead. A 14-2 run gave Upstate a 53-51 lead with 2:03 left in the third.

Midway through the fourth quarter, the Spartans took a six-point lead, 67-61, thanks to back-to-back threes.

Kasey Uetrecht answered with a three to pull the Norse within three, 67-64, with 3:17 remaining. Two Molly Glick free throws cut the NKU deficit to 67-66.

A big offensive rebound and putback by Brittany Starling increased the USC Upstate lead to 69-66 with 2:07 left.

Uetrecht came through again, drilling a three with 25 seconds left to tie the game at 69.

After a missed USC Upstate layup, Starling got another offensive rebound and scored with 5.0 left.

NKU took a timeout to advance the ball to midcourt. Shar’Rae Davis inbounded the ball to Uetrecht, who drove to the basket and drew the foul with 2.8 left.

However, she missed the first free throw. She missed the second so the Norse could try to grab the rebound, but the Spartans got the rebound instead and time expired.

Uetrecht led the Norse in scoring in all four postseason games. She had 14 points and 6 rebounds. Molly Franson had her first career double-double, scoring 12 points and pulling down a career-high 12 rebounds.

Courtney Roush added 13 points while Davis had 12.

Raven Jefferson led USC Upstate with 17 points. Starling had 13 points and 15 rebounds.

Thursday’s game was the latest heartbreak for the Norse. It is the third straight loss that NKU suffered on the opponent’s final shot of the game.

“Last year we had a couple close games but there were a lot of blowouts on either end,” Plitzuweit said. “In our first 14 games, eight of them had been decided by six or less points. Our kids put themselves in positions by hitting big shots in games. I thought we did a good job down the stretch making them take tough shots, but couldn’t clean up two offensive boards that end up costing us.”

It was also the final NKU game for seniors Rianna Gayheart, Christine Roush and Courtney Roush.

“Those three kids have done a tremendous job,” Plitzuweit said. “They’ve been through a lot of changes. Those kids have done a lot more and deserve a lot of credit because I think they surprised a lot of people and have had a tremendous amount of success.

“For them to lead us through that time it really says a lot about who they are and their toughness and their character.”

Summary

Thursday, March 17, 2016

@ BB&T Arena, Highland Heights, Kentucky

USC Upstate 71, Northern Kentucky 69

U — 16 – 14 – 27 – 14 — 71
N — 13 – 29 – 15 – 12 — 69

(71) USC UPSTATE (fg-3fg-ft-tp) Haddock 5-0-0-10, Clency 3-1-0-7, Jefferson 5-5-2-17, Dickerson 1-1-10-13, Starling 6-0-1-13, Thorpe 2-1-3-8, Hadler 1-1-0-3. TOTALS 23-9-16-71.

(69) NORTHERN KENTUCKY (fg-3fg-ft-tp) Lyttle 2-0-2-6, Ch. Roush 2-1-2-7, Uetrecht 5-2-2-14, Glick 1-0-3-5, Davis 4-2-2-12, Co. Roush 4-0-5-13, Franson 4-0-4-12. TOTALS 22-5-20-69.

FIELD GOALS: U 23/61 (Starling 6/9, Haddock 5/12, Jefferson 5/7); N 22/57 (Uetrecht 5/13, Davis 4/9, Franson 4/9, Co. Roush 4/7)

3 POINT FIELD GOALS: U 9/19 (Jefferson 5/6); N 5/16 (Uetrecht 2/4, Davis 2/2)

FREE THROWS: U 16/17 (Dickerson 10/10); N 20/26 (Co. Roush 5/5, Franson 4/6)

REBOUNDS: U 43 (Starling 15, Haddock 9, Clency 4, Davis 4); N 31 (Franson 12, Uetrecht 6)

ASSISTS: U 16 (Haddock 4, Clency 4, Starling 4); N 16 (Franson 4, Uetrecht 3, Gayheart 3, Glick 3)

STEALS: U 0; N 8

BLOCKED SHOTS: U 2; N 5

TURNOVERS: U 14; N 5

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USC Upstate ends NKU season in WBI opener