By McNeese Assistant SID Pam LaFosse
HIGHLAND HEIGHTS, Ky.— McNeese State's women's basketball team scored the first 11 points of the second half to cut a 20-point halftime deficit to a nine point deficit (46-37) in the first four minutes of the half but the Cowgirls couldn't overcome the hot shooting of Northern Kentucky Thursday night in an 84-72 loss in the first round of the WBI Tournament. NKU had its best shooting game of the season, ending the game with a season high 84 points, a 55.6 field goal percent and 71.4 percent from three-point range. The Norse ended the game making 25 of 45 attempts and were 10 of 14 from three-point range. The difference in the game was at the free throw line where NKU was 24 of 27 and the Cowgirls were 6 of 9.
"We didn't do a good job of covering out and getting through their screens but again they had a lot to do with that. They did a good job and they have a good team," said head coach Brooks Donald Williams. "We knew it was going to be a tough task at their place, and it was."
McNeese had three players score in double figures with Allison Baggett leading the way with 16. Cecilia Okoye and Victoria Rachal both ended the game with 13 points apiece. Arianna James led all players with a game high nine rebounds. Baggett and Jayln Johnson got into early foul trouble and the Cowgirls' offense struggled once they went to the bench.
The Cowgirl scored the games first points on a three-pointer by Johnson less than two minutes into the game. NKU tied the game on a three of their own then took the lead for good on another three ball by Kayla Thacker. Thacker scored a season high 25 points and was one of four Norse to score in double figures. Lauren White scored 16 points and Melody Doss and Kaitlyn Gerrety both scored 12 apiece.
McNeese's full-court press in the second half forced UNK to turn the ball over in their first four trips down the floor. McNeese used those turnovers to their advantage and hit their shots on the offensive end to cut into the lead. The Cowgirls outscored UNK 46-38 in the second half and got as close as seven points (54-47) with 11:32 to play on an Okoye jumper in the lane. McNeese trailed by as many as 21 points with 6:04 left in the game.
"We could never really get to the next step. We would cut it and fight so hard then we would have to sub some players. We were playing a lot of young ones and when you're trying to make a big run like that to get back in the game, you just can't make some of the defensive mistakes that we were making."
The Cowgirls forced UNK into 16 turnovers and scored 19 points off those turnovers. The Cowgirls were credited with 11 assists and were only outrebounded by two (32-30).