The Independent Student Newspaper of Northern Kentucky University.

Sam Rosenstiel & Colin Johnson

Women’s basketball will play UC Wednesday night in Truist Arena.

Norse open I-75 Challenge with strong first half in double-digit win over EKU

December 9, 2022

Led by Emmy Souder’s 17 points and Lindsey Duvall’s fifth double-double of the season, the NKU women’s basketball team knocked off Eastern Kentucky Thursday night in the first game of the I-75 Challenge for the Norse by a score of 79-69.

Souder has seen her offensive numbers skyrocket after a tough stretch to begin the season, becoming a centerpiece for the Norse offense inside. She said that her teammates getting her the ball has been a key for her improving numbers on the offensive side of the ball.

“My teammates are really good passers, so they set me up in good positions,” Souder said. “I want to give them the assists, so I’m trying to finish everything that I get.”

The opening six minutes of the game saw the Norse get out to an 18-5 lead before the first media timeout. Ivy Turner led all scorers with six points as she went 2-for-2 from beyond the three-point line and Khamari Mitchell-Steen and Emmy Souder backed her up with eight combined points. NKU was able to keep every Colonel off the board with the exception of Danielle Rainey, who scored all of the Colonels’ five points through the first 6:52 of play.

The Norse would take a 21-8 lead into the second quarter and wouldn’t let up, as after buckets from Rainey and Kayra Freeman for the Colonels, NKU would begin to spread the wealth throughout the second. Ellie Taylor and Trinity Thompson came off the bench with 12 points combined en route to a 23-10 run that lasted seven and a half minutes.

By the end of the second quarter, NKU would have a 44-22 lead and entered the half going 56 percent from the field, dominating EKU in points in the paint with 24. The Norse also out-rebounded the Colonels 19-15 with their main production on the defensive end of the ball coming from Duvall. The grad student guard commented on her performance postgame, saying that boxing out against a physical Colonels team was a huge upgrade she made to her arsenal coming into this game.

“[Eastern Kentucky] really likes to rebound the ball and likes to box out, so I think boxing out has led to me getting more rebounds, which I never knew before, I used to go out and receive the ball,” Duvall said.

But much like the past few games, the Norse ended up slipping in the second half to give their opponents a shot at the lead. After trading baskets to make it a 24-point game to begin the third quarter, the Colonels would go on a 13-2 run that made it a 52-39 game. In her first game of eligibility with EKU, junior guard Marissa Mackins came off the bench to give her team seven points over the course of the run and would go on to score 19 total, going 4-8 from three-point range.

NKU would keep a 62-47 lead heading into the fourth quarter and kept EKU just beyond arm’s length throughout the rest of the game. The Norse improved upon their 31% shooting in the third by going 5-for-11 and shooting 50 percent from beyond the arc, but still couldn’t quell the Colonels’ offensive explosion as they were outscored 22-17 in the fourth. Mackins would score nine in the fourth and Rainey would follow it up with six to match the latter’s game total.

Norse head coach Camryn Whitaker said that despite the win, she wants to find a way to get her team to avoid the slow second half performances, and keep her team focused in situations where they get off to big leads and need to prevent opponents from going on runs down the stretch.

“We know that the teams on our schedule, they aren’t just going to lay down, they’re not going to quit when we get ahead,” Whitaker said. “We’re playing a really tough schedule, but I’d like to see us come out a little bit more focused in the second half when we do have those leads, this has happened to us now two games in a row. We just have to do a better job of taking that 22-point lead at halftime and at the end of the third quarter making it 30, and then at the end of the game making sure it’s under control.”

The Norse wrap up their portion of the I-75 Challenge Sunday afternoon at Truist Arena against Miami of Ohio. The game tips off at 2 p.m. and can be seen on ESPN+.

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