Graham maneuvers inside against Bellarmine’s Dana Beaven
during the second half of NKU’s 76-64 win. Graham finished
with six points and three rebounds.
Ky. - They have been called special by their head coach on more
than one occasion. Three arrived as freshmen, and two others eventually
joined them after transferring from NCAA Division I programs.
A year ago,
playing together for the first time as a group, they won the Great
Lakes Valley Conference championship and advanced to the NCAA Division
II Great Lakes Region Tournament semifinals. On Monday night, this
group of five seniors made sure their final home appearance at Northern
Kentucky University would also be remembered as special by posting
a 76-64 victory over Bellarmine in Regents Hall to extend their
winning streak to 12 consecutive games.
And some of
the noteworthy moments occurred before the game ever tipped off.
(Nancy Winstel) said that they have a tradition here that the seniors
start," said Karyn Creager, one of two Norse seniors to start
Monday. "The other three seniors agreed that we’ve been
playing so well the way that it was with the winning streak, that
they didn’t want to change things up. They’re team players
and I wouldn’t expect anything different out of them."
That sense of
team play carried over to the game as five NKU players scored in
double figures. Creager and fellow senior starter Brittany Winner
each scored 11 points for the Norse. The three other seniors - Katie
Butler, Betsey Clark and Karmen Graham - also played key roles by
combining for 13 points and eight rebounds off the bench.
to 19-5 overall, 13-4 in the GLVC. The Norse also locked up the
GLVC East Division's No. 2 seed in the upcoming GLVC Tournament,
which begins March 2 at Evansville, Ind.
The Norse underclassmen
played huge most of the evening, particularly inside standouts Angela
Healy and Cassie Brannen. Healy, a junior and a Highlands High School
graduate, scored 15 points, grabbed 10 rebounds and dished out five
assists. She also had four steals in 28 minutes of action.
Brannen, a sophomore
from Mount Notre Dame High School, scored 13 points, blocked six
shots and finished with five rebounds. Brannen dominated the inside
defensively early in the game and had four rejections by halftime.
Her six blocks were one shy of tying the school record.
Winner goes strong to the basket while being defended by Taylor
Kopple. Winner scored 11 and reached the 900-point mark of
her career by draining a 3-pointer late in the game.
Healy just got off to a terrific start this year. Then she was kind
of struggling, but now I think Angela is starting to get her game
back," Winstel said. "That’s really good to see
because she’s so important to what we do at both ends of the
floor. Cassie is becoming a force by blocking shots, and her timing
is good and she is really long and hard to shoot over."
a sizzling 72.7 percent of its shots from the field in the first
half, but the Norse could not shake the Knights and held just a
39-35 lead at the break. Bellarmine stayed close with 7-for-10 shooting
from 3-point range, led by Angela Smith's four treys in the first
Up by one point
(58-57) with 7:48 remaining, NKU used an 11-2 run to build a 69-59
lead. Brannen and Graham each had conventional three-point plays
during the spurt. Graham, who has been bothered by injuries and
sickness this season, finished her night with six points and three
rebounds, not to mention plenty of balloons and other Senior Night
crazy. I was telling Angela Healy today that I still feel like a
freshman sometimes," Graham said. "It’s weird. It’s
like you don’t come to terms with it, but then at the same
time it's neat because we have been here for four years."
Winner put the
finishing touches on her home career by draining a 3-pointer with
1:47 remaining to give NKU a 76-61 advantage. A transfer who played
her freshman season at Elon (N.C.), Winner's trey gave her exactly
900 career points as a collegiate player. She also collected six
assists and five rebounds.
dished out a team-leading seven assists and scored 13 points. The
junior guard was perfect from both the field (4-for-4) and free-throw
line (5-for-5). Butler, the University of Dayton transfer in her
second year at NKU, totaled seven points and four rebounds.
As a team, NKU
made all 16 of its free-throw attempts. That pleased Creager, NKU's
all-time greatest from the line.
to say it's rubbing off on them, but we shoot free throws in practice
in game situations, and we have to make so many in a row before
we’re done," she said. "I also think we’re
playing with a lot of confidence now. I think we’re going
to the line with confidence and that’s helping us."
NKU hits the
road for games at Saint Joseph's (Thursday at 6:30 p.m.) and Indianapolis
(Saturday at 5:30 p.m.) to conclude the regular season. The Norse
are ranked No. 3 in the NCAA Division II Great Lakes Region poll.