Limiting fifth-ranked Connors State College to a mere 16 points in the first half, the Northeastern A&M Lady Norse pulled off an 83-59 upset Thursday night in the NEO Fieldhouse.

“Unlike our loss to Arkansas-Fort Smith (68-63) last week, we were more prepared the first five minutes of the game,” Lady Norse coach Jim Rowland said. “Connors didn’t pressure us like Fort Smith did, so we didn’t turn the ball over as much.”

Another factor is the Lady Norse first half surge was the return of sophomore guard Kalli Bassett (5-8 of Grove). A foot injury had kept her sidelined since December.

“Kalli actually came back a week earlier than expected,” Rowland said. “She made an immediate impact hitting 3 of 4 3-pointers to ignite our offense.

“We stress defense every day,” Rowland said. “The girls have bought into what we’re trying to teach them and they believe in our system to the point that our offense feeds off the success of our defense.”

After Connors State opened the game with a field goal by Ashleigh Franklin, the Lady Norse responded with a 13-point run. Consecutive 3-pointers by Skye Rees, Nolisha Markham and Bassett, along with layups by Markham and Bassett, fueled the NEO outburst.

Two more 3-pointers by Bassett, along with six points by freshman center Jolena Cerina and field goals by Markham and Rees, propelled the Lady Norse to a 29-8 cushion with 8:10 left until halftime.

Four free throws and a putback by the 6-5 Cerina, along with a field goal by Rees and two free throws by Megan Fraley, enabled the Lady Norse to construct a 39-16 margin at intermission.

During the first 10 minutes of the second half the Lady Norse outscored the Cowgirls 19-9 to create a 58-25 advantage. Three-point goals by Fraley, Markham and Bassett, along with four points by Rees, ignited the NEO run.

Five points each by Richanda Bickham, Franklin and Gabrielle Rosiji rallied the Cowgirls to a 67-41 deficit with 5:53 remaining in the game.

Over the final five minutes, Markham scored five points, along with three points each by Fraley and Kashaei Hopkins and field goals by Andrea Marinho and Carla McKinney sealed the Lady Norse victory.

Markham led the Lady Norse with 18 points while Cerina scored 16, Bassett 14, Rees 11 and Fraley 10.

Bickham tallied 21 points to lead the Cowgirls while Franklin added 12.

With the victory, the Lady Norse are 19-5 on the season and 3-1 in the Eastern Division of the Bi-State Athletic Conference. The Cowgirls are 22-2 on the season and 2-1 in the Bi-State East.

The Lady Norse start the second half of the conference schedule on Feb. 12 with a 6 p.m. contest against seventh-ranked Arkansas-Fort Smith at the Stubblefield Center.

Northeastern A&M 83, Connors State 59

Connors (22-2, 2-1) — Bickham 5-15 10-12 21, Franklin 5-15 2-6 12, Rosiji 3-7 2-3 8, Dixon 3-5 0-0 7, Johnson 1-15 3-4 5, Roth 1-7 2-2 4, Norwood 1-2 0-0 2, Mumphrey 0-0 0-2, Carter 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 19-66 19-29 59.

Northeastern A&M (19-5, 3-1) — Markham 5-11 5-6 18, Cerina 6-11 4-5 16, Bassett 5-9 0-0 14, Rees 5-13 0-0 11, Fraley 1-8 7-8 10, Hopkins 1-5 4-4 7, McKinney 0-1 2-2 2, Woodard 1-7 0-2 2, Marinho 1-5 0-0 2, Beaver 0-2 1-2 1, Mekeel 0-1 0-0 0, Cady 0-0 0-0 0, Odell 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 25-73 23-29 83.

Halftime — NEO 39, CSC 16. 3-point goals — CSC 2-13 (Bickham 1-2, Dixon 1-2, Franklin 0-1, Roth 0-3, Johnson 0-5), NEO 10-27 (Bassett 4-8, Markham 3-4, Rees 1-2, Hopkins 1-3, Fraley 1-6, McKinney 0-1, Woodard 0-3). Rebounds — CSC 56 (Franklin 11), NEO 49 (Cerina 9). Assists — CSC 11 (Dixon 4), NEO 13 (Fraley 5). Steals — CSC 2 (Roth, Mumphrey), NEO 5 (Cerina 2). Blocked shots — CSC 5 (Mumphrey 2), NEO 4 (Cerina 4). Turnovers — CSC 11, NEO 16. Total fouls — CSC 22, NEO 23. Fouled out — Roth, Franklin. Technical foul — Rosiji.