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HIGHLAND HEIGHTS, Ky. – The USC Upstate women's basketball team (5-8, 1-1 A-Sun) dropped a 70-62 decision at Atlantic Sun Conference newcomer Northern Kentucky (4-8, 1-2 A-Sun) Saturday night as senior Tee'Ara Copney (Asheville, N.C.) tied Spartan career records in steals and three-pointers made.
Despite ranking second in the A-Sun in field goal percentage, the Spartans struggled from the floor in the first half, giving Northern Kentucky a 16-4 lead in the opening 10 minutes of the contest. The Norse took a 16-point advantage with 2:05 remaining in the first half, but the Spartans went to work and managed to cut the deficit to 10 as NKU took a 34-24 lead into the locker room at the break.
After shooting 32.3 percent in the opening frame, Upstate did better in the second half, shooting 43.6 percent. However, it wasn't quite enough to overtake Northern Kentucky.
The Spartans opened the second stanza with three layups and cut the NKU lead to 36-30 with 17:02 left. The Norse called a timeout to regroup and charged back with a 9-0 run to take a 45-30 advantage at the 14:04 mark.
Upstate slowly chipped away at the 15-point deficit and cut the NKU lead to single-digits off of a pair of free throws and a layup from sophomore Shelby Hicks (Greeneville, Tenn.). A three-pointer from Copney and a jumper from senior Tyra Smith (Lawrenceville, Ga.) pulled Upstate within four (54-50) with 5:59 to play.
Unfortunately, that would be the closest the Spartans would get to the Norse. Northern Kentucky was hot from behind the arc, making 10 treys on the night with six in the second half. NKU jumped to a 68-54 lead with 3:28 to go, but the Spartans kept fighting and managed to pull within eight and took the 70-62 loss.
Four Spartans scored double-figures as Copney, junior Valese McAllister (Twin City, Ga.) and freshman Tweety Hawkins (Madison, Ga.) each recorded 12 points, while Hicks tallied 11. Copney drained two from long distance, giving her 172 career three-pointers made to tie Kendra Wallace's (2008-11) all-time record at Upstate. She snagged a season-high seven rebounds, while swiping a team-high three steals. Copney tallies 245 career steals to match the school record set by Valerie Scott (1990-94).
McAllister posted a season-high 12 points, marking her first double-digit effort this year. She pulled down a team-best seven boards, while freshman Brittany Starling (Sumter, S.C.) grabbed six rebounds. Smith handed out a team-high four assists for the Spartans, while recording four boards, picking up two steals and scoring two points.
The Norse were led by Rianna Gayheart with 24 points, connecting on 6-of-8 from behind the arc including five in the second half. Melody Doss flirted with a double-double for NKU, posting 14 points and eight rebounds. Kaitlyn Gerrety registered a double-double with 10 points and a game-best 10 boards, while Ellen Holton had 10 points and seven rebounds.
On the night, Upstate shot 38.6 percent from the floor and 18.8 percent from three-point range, compared to NKU's 40.0 percent from the floor and 43.5 percent from downtown. The Spartans, who averaged 24.4 turnovers a game entering the contest, turned the ball over just 13 times, while the Norse posted 17 turnovers. Upstate had 12 points off turnovers, while NKU recorded six.
Northern Kentucky won the battle of the boards 44-41, including 30 defensive boards for the Norse. Upstate also loss the contest of second chances as NKU scored 18 second-chance points, while the Spartans tallied just eight.