The women’s basketball team defeated Northern Kentucky University, 60-54, on Saturday night at TD Arena to advance to the semifinal round of the Women’s Basketball Invitational.
The Cougars came out with the same aggressiveness that propelled them to their first round win over USC Upstate last Thursday, demonstrated by a steal and breakaway layup by freshman Breanna Bolden in the opening minutes.
Bolden was far from finished, as she played perhaps the best game of her young career when it mattered the most. She scored 10 first half points as Charleston led by six at halftime.
NKU, who is a member of the Atlantic Sun Conference, cut the Charleston lead to one with a 10-3 run to open the second half.
Bolden put a stop to the NKU run with two straight buckets, which jumpstarted a 12-1 Charleston spurt. Bolden’s hot shooting, combined with jumpers from senior Alyssa Frye, pushed the Cougars’ lead to double digits with just under 10 minutes to play.
NKU did not quit, closing the gap to six twice in the final two minutes, but defense and free throws clinched the win for Charleston.
“Our kids knew coming into this game that it would be a battle and 40 minutes of gutting it out. Before the game, we put ‘commitment’ on the board and it was about having the dedication to just take care of your business and own your job. Tonight, I thought that even when Northern Kentucky cut it close, our kids rallied and come back out and make a run. To me, that’s just a sign of a team that is battle tested and has really good chemistry and is still hungry to play,” Head Coach Natasha Adair said.
The Cougars held NKU to just 27 percent shooting for the game. Defense was key for Charleston, as they shot only 31 percent themselves, knocking down just two three pointers. The Cougars also pulled down an astonishing 58 rebounds.
“Defense and rebounding has been a focus for us. We can score and we know we can score. We want to be able to oppose our will defensively and be able to rebound on both sides of the ball. In practice during the last few days, it has been about defense and I think [our players] carried through with the game plan well,” Adair said.
Bolden finished the game with 18 points and eight rebounds. It was her second highest scoring output of the season, behind a career-high 20 points in a February win over Drexel.
“I just wanted to play downhill and I just wanted to win. Last game, it felt like I had a lid on the basket. This game, I just kept shooting and had to be confident in my shot,” Bolden said.
“[Bolden] is a matchup nightmare. She can take you to the hole, she can shoot the three, and she can rebound. I have confidence in her and we want her to shoot a little more,” Adair said.
Frye chipped in 12 points and senior Afreyea Tolbert added a double double with 11 points and 10 rebounds.
Senior Jillian Brown continued her habit of stuffing the box score, tallying five points, five assists, six steals, and eight rebounds.
Charleston will now play on Thursday evening at TD Arena against #4 Stephen F. Austin. Game time is scheduled for 7 p.m.