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Women’s basketball schedule preview

Two non-conference trips to the Hoosier state highlight the early part of the Northern Kentucky women’s basketball schedule.

NKU will open its season at Indiana State Nov. 11, before returning to Bloomington for a showdown with Big Ten member Indiana on Dec. 8.

The schedule, which was released in September, was also supposed to include a trip to Puerto Rico for the Puerto Rico Classic.

That event has been moved to Las Vegas, Nevada, due to concerns with the Zika virus, according to the Associated Press.

“This is not an easy decision for us in light of our decades of relationships with our Puerto Rican partners,” Sport Tours president Lee Frederick, whose company runs the events, said in a statement to the AP. “However, we understand it is what the universities want at this time. We look forward to returning to San Juan in 2017 and beyond.”

Northern Kentucky will play against Portland State, Arkansas State and Southern Mississippi during the event, which runs from Dec. 19 to 21.

NKU will play its home opener Nov. 15 against the Miami University Redhawks. The Norse traveled to Millett Hall a year ago and returned with a 71-57 victory.

Other highlights on the non-league schedule include a trip to the Convo in Athens, Ohio to take on Ohio University Nov. 21, and a home contest with Murray State Dec. 10.

The Horizon League schedule-makers did the Norse no favors with the league schedule. NKU jumps right in with a trip to Wisconsin for games against Green Bay and Milwaukee.

The Phoenix, who have won at least a share of every women’s basketball regular season titles since 1999, ousted the Norse in the Horizon League semifinals 80-78 in double overtime a year ago.

If the two teams meet again in the Horizon League tournament, it will not be in Green Bay this time. This year’s Horizon League tournament will be held alongside the men’s tournament at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit, March 4-7.

New head coach Camryn Whitaker hopes the non-league schedule will prepare her team for the league season.

“I know the 2016-17 schedule will be challenging, but it will help prepare our team for the conference,” Whitaker said in a release. “Our goal is to win Horizon League Championships and compete in the NCAA tournament, and this year’s schedule is designed to help us do that.”

Must-see games:

Ohio

Nov. 21, 7 p.m., Convocation Center, Athens, Ohio

Ohio University was picked to finish first in the Mid-American Conference East Division by the coaches. The Bobcats were selected second overall in the preseason poll, finishing behind West Division favorite Central Michigan. Quiera Lampkins, senior guard for the Bobcats, was picked to the preseason All-MAC East team. She averaged 14.8 points and five rebounds per game a season ago and was the conference’s defensive player of the year. The Bobcats ended its season last year in the WNIT round of 16, and will look to make the NCAA tournament this season. (OhioBobcats.com)

Indiana

Dec. 8, 7 p.m., Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall, Bloomington, Indiana

For the first time in the history of Indiana women’s basketball, the Hoosiers are ranked in the preseason Associated Press top 25, according to IUHoosiers.com. Indiana is ranked 23rd in the first poll of the season. In fact, the site says IU has only appeared in the poll three times in its history. Not surprising for a team that returns all five starters from a year ago, including All-Big Ten first-team player Tyra Buss, who averaged 18.8 points and 5.0 rebounds per game. (IUHoosiers.com).

Green Bay

Dec. 29, 8 p.m., Kress Events Center, Green Bay, Wisconsin

Feb. 26, 3:30 p.m. BB&T Arena, Highland Heights, Kentucky

The Horizon League schedule begins and ends with a rematch of an instant classic in the Horizon League semifinals a year ago. Green Bay rallied to defeat Northern Kentucky 80-78 in double overtime. The Phoenix were tabbed as preseason favorites for the ninth season in a row, according to GreenBayPhoenix.com. Mehryn Kraker was named to the preseason first-team, all-Horizon League and was league tournament MVP last season. She averaged 11.9 points during conference play. If the Norse want to make its first-ever appearance in the Division I NCAA women’s basketball tournament, that road goes through the Phoenix. (GreenBayPhoenix.com).

Wright State

Jan. 14, 1 p.m., BB&T Arena, Highland Heights, Kentucky

Feb. 4, 4:30 p.m., Ervin J. Nutter Center, Dayton, Ohio

In the second year of the Horizon League, these two geographic rivals will look to battle for a Horizon League championship. Wright State got the best of the Norse last season, winning 66-61 at home and 76-65 at NKU. The Raiders will have to replace the scoring of departed senior Kim Demmings, who led WSU with 20 points per game. The Norse won’t miss Demmings, who had 28 and 22 in two matchups a year ago. Antania Hayes is the top returning scorer. She averaged 12.2 points per game, and scored 14 and 9 in the two meetings with the Norse. Emily Vogelpohl averaged 10.6 per game a year ago. She had 14 and 6 in the two games against NKU last year. (WSURaiders.com).

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