The NKU Norse beat Youngstown State 87-81 in overtime Saturday night for their first Horizon League victory of the season. The Norse improve to 5-11 while the Penguins drop to 4-10.
“It feels good,” senior Rebecca Lyttle said. “The first three games were tough for us but it was good we all stayed positive and pushed through it.”
After being down 14 points in the fourth quarter, Youngstown State roared back to force overtime. The Norse scored just 13 points and shot 33 percent in the 4th quarter while the Penguins scored 27 points and shot 50 percent in the quarter.
The Norse recovered in overtime, making 10 free throws to help seal the deal for the Norse.
“We have to learn now how to play with a lead and not let teams come back on you,” head coach Camyrn Whitaker said. “We haven’t had many leads this year. It’s a new challenge.”
Despite the fourth quarter struggles, the Norse played arguably their best offensive game of the season against the Penguins, shooting 51 percent from the floor. The Norse outrebounded the Penguins 37-29 in the game and capitalized with 14 second chance points.
“We finally got some shots to go down,” Whitaker said. “I think that’s where we’ve been struggling with our confidence. When you hit shots you get more confident.”
The Norse shot well in the first half, shooting 61 percent in the first quarter and 57 percent in the second quarter. The Penguins shot just 38 percent in the second quarter and shot only 41 percent for the game.
Rebecca Lyttle, Kasey Uetrecht, Shar’Rae Davis and Mikayla Terry all finished in double figures for the Norse. Lyttle finished the game 23 points and 11 rebounds, giving her a double-double on the night. Uetrecht also finished the game with a double-double, scoring 22 points and recording 16 rebounds.
Davis finished with 11 points and four assists while Terry finished with 16 points and five assists before fouling out in the fourth quarter.
Youngstown State finished with three players in double digits. Mary Dunn finished with 18 points and five rebounds while Indiya Benjamin finished with 17 points and nine assists.
The Norse were once again short on the bench with eight players dressing for the game. That bench got even shorter in the second quarter, when Laura Thomas fell hard on her left shoulder and exited the game.
“We essentially played with six players,” Whitaker said.
Five Norse players recorded more than 35 minutes in the game. Uetrecht played all but 4 minutes while Terry only sat when she fouled out.
The minutes caught up to the Norse in that fourth quarter, Whitaker thinks. The Norse pushed the ball more in this game than they have most of the season, which tired out the Norse legs faster than normal.
“When you play that many minutes your going to get fatigued. We really looked tired,” Whitaker said. “It affects your defense and everything you do.”
Even though this is the only the fifth win for the Norse on the season and injuries are starting to pile up, the Norse aren’t ready to quit on the season yet. Each game is a learning experience for Uetrecht, who has been apart of two winning seasons with the Norse.
“How you move forward from each game is crucial,” Uetrecht said. “You could say ‘we have a losing season so what’s the point of playing?’ or you can move forward and say ‘I’m going to get better this next game and improve’ and I think we’ve done that all season.”
Whitaker is also learning everyday, through film study and in practice, and trying to find ways to improve her coaching and her team.
“I learn something every day,” Whitaker said. “For us, we’ve learned through the adversity. We’ve faced a lot of adversity. These kids could lay down and quit. But through the adversity that we’ve faced, it has made us stronger.”
The Norse will play against at BB&T Arena Saturday Jan. 14 at 1 p.m. against Wright State. The game will be available on ESPN3