By Justin Grones (@JustinGrones)
GREEN BAY, Wis. (GreenBayPhoenix.com) - For a second straight game, the No. 20/20 Green Bay women's basketball team did not allow the opposing team to put a player in double-digit scoring as the Phoenix defeated Loyola 63-37 in the regular season home finale. The win improves Green Bay to 25-2 and 15-0 in the Horizon League, while Loyola evens out at 14-14 and 9-6 in conference play. The win also improved the Phoenix's winning streak to 20 games, the fourth-longest in program history, while snapping Loyola's seven-game unbeaten streak.
Redshirt sophomore Megan Lukan (Barrie, Ontario) continued her dominant play and led the way with 19 points on a 3-6 effort from behind the arc. After going 6-34 from long range in the first 23 games of the season, Lukan boasts an impressive 15-33 mark during the last four games-good for a .455 mark.
Loyola entered the contest as the nation's second-best team in the turnover category at 11.6 per game, but Green Bay forced 21 Ramblers' turnovers-11 in the first half-tying the most the Windy City team has committed this season.
"Loyola is a very, very good team and they have a lot of players that can be a threat in the paint," head coach Kevin Borseth said. "Being able to force those turnovers tonight was one of the key points to winning this game because Loyola is a great team."
The Ramblers kept the game close to start, holding a 6-5 advantage at the 16:43 mark. It would be the last time Loyola held a lead as senior Adrian Ritchie (De Pere, Wis.) scored on a layup and the Phoenix never looked back. The layup sparked an 11-0 run over the next five minutes, helping the home team rush out to a 16-6 lead with 10:48 remaining in the half.
Both offenses stalled in the latter part of the first half as the Phoenix outscored the Ramblers 11-8 to take a 27-14 lead into the break.
"Our offense wasn't always at its best tonight but our defense came up big when we needed it," Ritchie said. "We'll definitely take having a strong defensive any night, especially when our offense isn't playing how we'd like it to be playing."
The Ramblers struck first in the second half on a layup from Taylor Johnson, but a three from Ritchie started a 17-1 run for Green Bay to open the half. Loyola broke the run at the 15:36 mark when Abby Skube made the team's first three after the Ramblers had missed their first nine attempts from long range. Despite the triple, Green Bay still led 44-20.
Lukan hit back-to-back three's to push the lead to 57-30 with 5:11 remaining, the largest lead the Phoenix would hold in the game. Loyola scored seven points in the final three minutes of the game, but triples from Jenny Gilbertson (Wabasha, Minn.) and Ellen Edison (Maple Grove, Minn.) sealed the 63-37 victory.
Lukan led the way with 19 points and added four rebounds and four assists, while Ritchie posted 17 points, six rebounds, two assists and two steals. Gilbertson was the next-highest scorer with nine points and seven boards. Despite not scoring, senior Sarah Eichler (Grafton, Wis.) had a game-high seven assists-pushing her average to 5.0 shares per game during the past six games.
The Phoenix had 21 assists on 22 field goals, marking the first time this season the team had an assist on all but one shot. After shooting just 29.6 percent from the field in the first half, Green Bay made 61.9 percent of its field goal attempts for a 43.8 percent mark overall.
Loyola was led by Simone Law with nine points and as a team shot just 29.7 percent from the field. The Ramblers connected on just 3-18 from behind the arc for a 16.7 percent mark, and tied a season-high with 21 turnovers. With just 37 total points, the win marks the seventh time this season Green Bay has held an opponent under 40 points.
NEXT ON THE SCHEDULE: The Phoenix closes the 2012-13 regular season with a matchup at Milwaukee on Saturday. The Phoenix defeated the Panthers 64-49 at home on Feb. 9., but Green Bay's rival to the south has won three of its last five after defeating UIC 72-63 at home on Thursday.
TOURNAMENT TALK: Following Saturday's game at Milwaukee, Green Bay will open the 2013 Horizon League Tournament on Wednesday as the No. 1 seed in the quarterfinal round. Barring a Phoenix loss, the team will host the semifinal and championship rounds on Friday and Sunday. In its five-year history, the Kress Center has hosted every Horizon League Tournament.
For the latest and most up-to-date information on Green Bay Athletics, please visit GreenBayPhoenix.com.