Women's Basketball Battles for Top Spot in HL at Wright State
By Rachel Buck (@GBRachel)
GREEN BAY, Wis. (GreenBayPhoenix.com) – It will be a battle atop the conference standings this Thursday as the Green Bay women’s basketball team heads to Dayton to take on Wright State at 6 p.m.
Live audio with Bruce VandenPlas on the call will be available for free via GreenBayPhoenix.com or on the Green Bay Phoenix App on IOS and Android devices. Video of the game will be available online for free through the Horizon League Network, and live stats will also be provided through wsuraiders.com.
In the middle of a three-way tie atop the conference standings with Wright State and Youngstown State, Green Bay will look to earn the series sweep of the Raiders with a win on Thursday. The Phoenix took the first meeting this season at the Kress Center on January 25. In a second half that saw the lead exchange hands six times with one tie, the Green Bay women’s basketball defense stepped up big in the final seconds as the Phoenix squeaked by Wright State with a 69-67 triumph. Green Bay maintained a nine-point lead all the way to the 4:02 mark in the second half (65-56). However, Wright State charged back into the game with a 10-3 run to get to within a point, 68-67, with 53 seconds remaining to set up the late game dramatics.
On the next possession, Kaili Lukan missed the second of a pair of free throws, and the Raiders Tayler Stanton came up with the defensive rebound. Traveling to the other end of the court, James’ three went off target for Wright State, and freshman Tesha Buck grabbed the big rebound under the basket for the Phoenix. She then found Megan Lukan at midcourt on the break, where she was fouled with 14 seconds remaining. Lukan missed the front end of a one-and-one, and Demmings came up with the rebound for Wright State giving them an opportunity for a last-minute shot. The Phoenix defense stood strong, as a Kaili Lukan steal helped seconds tick off the clock, but she quickly turned it over again to put the ball in the hands of the hot-shooting Demmings, who’s last-minute shot attempt fell short of the win, preserving the two-point victory for the Phoenix.
Thursday’s contest marks the 55th meeting between Green Bay and Wright State, with the Phoenix leading the all-time series 51-3. Green Bay has won the last 24 meetings, including a close 69-67 win earlier this season at home. Of Green Bay’s three losses in the series, all have come in Dayton.
Green Bay is coming off a 1-1 showing last week, with a 59-56 win over Cleveland State before being handed a 72-63 loss at the hands of Youngstown State. Sunday’s loss to the Penguins snapped an eight game winning streak for the Phoenix, who was swept by a conference opponent for the first time since Milwaukee did it during the 2005-06 season.
The Phoenix attack is diverse, with five different players leading the top statistical categories. Sophomore Kaili Lukan (Barrie, Ontario) leads points (12.3), senior Breannah Ranger (Skokie, Ill.) leads rebounds (6.7), junior Megan Lukan (Barrie, Ontario) is tops in assists (4.5) and freshman Tesha Buck is best in steals (1.7). Ranger is also the best in the conference shooting 53.3 percent (104-195) from the field.
Wright State enters Thursday’s game tied with the Phoenix and Youngstown State atop the Horizon League standings with a record of 9-3. Owning an overall record of 20-7, Wright State has won five of its last six games since losing to Green Bay on Jan. 25. Wright State most recently defeated Detroit, 102-82, last Saturday. In its last five contests, the Raiders have scored 92 or more points including a program record 103 points against UIC on Feb. 15. As a team, Wright State currently leads the conference averaging 83.1 PPG but ranks just seventh allowing its opponents to average 76.0 PPG. It also leads the conference averaging 10.1 steals per game with a +9.6 turnover margin. Three Raiders are averaging double-digit scoring, led by top scorer in the conference and 12th nationally Kim Demmings (22.8), Ivory James (17.6) and Tay’ler Mingo (13.9). James also leads the team in rebounding (6.6) while Mingo paces the team in assists (4.4) and steals (2.1). Facing one of the top three shooting teams from deep for the third-consecutive contest, the Phoenix will also have to contend with conference leader Abby Jump, who is shooting 43.2% from beyond the arc.
1. Stat Stuffers: Seeing diversity from its top players this season, Green Bay currently boasts the only two players that rank among the conference leaders in four statistical categories: points, rebounds, assists and steals: junior Megan Lukan (9.2 PPG, 5.3 SPG, 4.5 APG, 1.7 SPG) and freshman Tesha Buck (9.8 PPG, 5.1 RPG, 4.0 APG, 1.7 SPG).
2. Helping Hand: As a team, Green Bay currently leads the conference averaging 16.3 assists per game with a 1.1 assist/turnover ratio. The team’s distribution has improved steadily over the conference season, where Green Bay has dished out 207 assists on 309 made baskets in 12 contests. The Phoenix has also recorded 18 or more helpers in seven of the last nine contests including 22 against Milwaukee on Feb. 15.
3. Off the Bench: The Green Bay reserves have provided an offensive spark in the last four contests, averaging 26.3 points per game, including a conference season-high 35 at UIC on Feb. 8. A bench player has been the leading scorer in two of the four games, with freshman Sam Terry leading the team at UIC and against Youngstown State. The bench has also seen a lot of valuable playing time, including against Valparaiso on Feb. 3 when all 12 Phoenix finished with at least one point in the contest, giving Green Bay its seventh game of the season where 10 or more players helped achieve the feat.
4. Feed it in: Green Bay has been able to capitalize on offensive production in the paint this season, receiving 46.9 percent (774-1649) of its total points from the lane while outscoring its opponents in the category by a +318 point margin (774-456). Green Bay has received more paint points than its opposition in all but one game this season, a loss to South Dakota State (12/7). In its game against Cleveland State on Feb. 21, the Phoenix tied a season-high with 44 paint points.
5. Hold ‘em Down: Despite having the second lowest offensive production in the conferece (68.7 PPG), the Phoenix stingy defense currently leads the conference limiting opposition to just 59.1 PPG. The scoring margin of +9.6 is also the best in the Horizon League, and Green Bay is the only team to have a scoring defense average under 60.0, and just one of two under 70.0. This season the Phoenix is 11-1 when holding its foes to under 60 points.
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