AMES, Iowa (GreenBayPhoenix.com) - Green Bay has an All-American named Julie Wojta (Francis Creek, Wis.), but it also has Eichler. And Bauer. And Ritchie. And so on. And it also still has an unblemished record on the road. No. 10/10 Green Bay (31-1), the seventh seed in the Kingston Region, used incredible balance and stifling defense to race out to a big halftime lead and post a convincing 71-57 victory at tenth-seeded Iowa State (18-13) Saturday evening in a first round NCAA Tournament game at Hilton Coliseum.
Green Bay, making its fourth consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance, has now won a tournament game in three consecutive seasons and now has the first road tournament win in its history. The Phoenix improved to 13-0 on the road in 2011-12, but when its steps on the Hilton Coliseum floor on Monday for its second-round game, it will be a neutral court. Green Bay will meet second-seeded Kentucky (26-6) on Monday night at approximately 8:30 p.m. CT.
"Incredibly proud of our team," said head coach Matt Bollant. "We talk a lot about playing as hard as any team in the country, and wow in that first half we did that. So pleased with how hard we played."
With Iowa State's defense keying on Wojta, Green Bay used a combined 25 first-half points from juniors Adrian Ritchie (De Pere, Wis.) and Sarah Eichler (Grafton, Wis.) to lead 42-23 at halftime. A triple from junior Lydia Bauer (Lake Zurich, Ill.) right before the halftime buzzer, her third three-pointer of the half, sent the Phoenix into the locker room with significant momentum after a 20-5 run over the past five minutes.
Eichler and Bauer each scored 16 points to lead the Phoenix while Ritchie added 15 points (13 in the first half). The trio combined to hit 10 three-pointers as Green bay went 11-of-29 from long range, including 9-of-18 in the opening half. The Phoenix hit five of its last six three-pointers in the half, with Bauer coming out of a recent slump to make 3-of-4. She finished 4-of-7 from long range.
"What great balance in that first half," said Bollant. "To see Lydia step up and hit three threes, including the one at the end of the half. It was a remarkable first half. We played really loose and really confident."
While those three players were scoring 34 points on one end in the first 20 minutes, the Phoenix defense was dominating the Cyclones on the other end. During the Green Bay run which featured five made field goals by the Phoenix, Iowa State went just 1-of-3 from the field and committed five turnovers. Iowa State had 19 of its 30 turnovers in the first half.
Green Bay did not let up in the second half, getting three field goals from Wojta in the first three minutes as Green Bay increased its lead to 53-31 with 12:24 to play. Iowa State answered with a 10-run to cut the deficit to 12, but the Cyclones never cut their deficit to single digits.
"This group has a lot of poise," said Bollant. "They made some great plays and knocked down some threes and got the crowd involved, and it became a tough environment. We were just trying to take care of the basketball, and I think we handled it really well."
Wojta had 10 points in the second half and finished with 14 points, five rebounds and four assists in 38 minutes.
"We just love the competition," said Wojta of the team's play. "It is a blue dot game and we just love playing together. We have such good team chemistry and we just go out and fight together and give everything we have to the game."
The 30 turnovers are the most by a Green Bay opponent in its NCAA Tournament history. Wojta had six of the team's 20 steals on the night, also a Phoenix tournament record. Freshman Megan Lukan (Barrie, Ontario) tallied just two points but had four of the team's steals, grabbed five rebounds and committed just two turnovers.
Junior Stephanie Sension (Hopkins, Minn.) played vital minutes for the Phoenix and took advantage of her time on the floor, going 4-for-4 from the field and scoring eight points in 13 minutes.
On Monday, Green Bay will have a chance for its second consecutive trip to the Sweet 16. Kentucky (26-6), the regular season champions from the Southeastern Conference, defeated McNeese State 68-62 on Saturday evening.
"They are a really good basketball team," said Bollant. "What a difference in the contrast of styles. I'm not sure we could play two more different teams. They are really athletic and take a lot of pride in turning you over and take a lot of pride in going to the offensive glass. They have a great program."
For ticketing information, please visit Cyclones.com. Single-session and all-session ticket packages are available. Single-session tickets are being sold for $18 for adults and #13 for youth.
To follow all of the action throughout Green Bay's trip to the NCAA Tournament, check out Tournament Central presented by Taco Bell.
For the latest and most up-to-date information on Green Bay Athletics, please visit GreenBayPhoenix.com.Green Bay Phoenix women's basketball and Green Bay Phoenix Athletics on Facebook.