By Justin Grones (@JustinGrones)
GREEN BAY, Wis. (GreenBayPhoenix.com) - Right on the edge of cracking the Top-25, the Green Bay women's basketball team will head to Chicago to face Loyola on Thursday as the 26th-best team in the nation. After receiving votes for the last two weeks in both polls, the RV/RV Phoenix (17-2, 7-0 HL) is the top team receiving votes in both the AP Top-25 poll and the USA Today Coaches poll. The dominating post play of both Stephanie Sension (Hopkins, Minn.) and Breannah Ranger (Skokie, Ill.) has played a major factor in this and the team's 12-game winning streak.
After spending her first three years as a reserve player, Sension has shined in her senior season as a regular starter averaging 11.0 points and 5.1 rebounds per game. She recorded her first career double-double on Nov. 22 against James Madison with 19 points and 10 rebounds, and notched her second on Saturday in a 99-53 win against UIC with 12 points and 10 boards. Averaging 24.1 minutes per game, she's connecting on 49.7 percent of her shots-good for the fifth-best mark in the Horizon League.
After appearing in 18 games as a freshman in 2009-10, Ranger redshirted the 2010-11 campaign before returning for the 2011-12 season. In her first two seasons combined, she averaged just 1.9 points and 1.8 rebounds per game. This year, the Skokie, Ill. native has seen her confidence level grow and her percentages and averages skyrocket. Ranger is averaging 7.4 points and 4.2 rebounds per game on an incredible 57.8 percent from the floor, the Horizon League's second-best percentage. She's scored in double figures six times this season, including the last three games.
In Saturday's win over UIC, Ranger set a career high with 16 points on nearly 78 percent shooting after tying her then-career high of 14 on Jan. 28 at Wright State. In the home win against Wright State, she recorded her first career double-double with 12 points and 11 rebounds.
Sension and Ranger score a combined 18.4 points per game on 53.8 shooting, and offer a seamless transition when either player subs in or out.
"Not many teams can say they have two post players who are so interchangeable and talented, usually a team has a lot of strong play from its guards," senior Adrian Ritchie (De Pere, Wis.) said. "Steph has gotten extremely talented with her post moves, and anything you throw to Breannah in the post, she has the ability to go up and get it no matter how many people are guarding her."
The Phoenix will look for continued success from its down-low duo in Thursday's game at Loyola. Tipoff will be at 7 p.m. with the game carried live on the Horizon League Network.
- Green Bay is the top team receiving votes in both the AP and USA Today Coaches polls. The Phoenix received 31 votes in this week's AP Poll and 27 in the USA Today Coaches Poll.
- The Phoenix is ranked No. 19 in the NCAA RPI poll, and also holds down the No. 2 spot in the College Insider Mid-Major Top 25 poll.
- The Phoenix ranks fourth in the nation in scoring defense at 47.5 points per game, just 0.3 points per game behind the national leader Albany.
- Green Bay ranks in the top-10 in Division I in assist-to-turnover ratio (4th), turnover margin (6th), and assists per game (10th).
- In the win against UIC, Green Bay broke a 27-year-old record for team assists in a single game with 34. In a total team effort, only two of the Phoenix's 36 field goals didn't have an assist.
- As a team, Green Bay is shooting 44.7 percent from the field and 33.0 percent from long range. The team has also improved tremendously at the free throw line since the beginning of the season, and boasts a 68.6 percent mark.
- The win over UIC was the 12th straight for the Phoenix, which hasn't lost since a 54-50 setback at Central Michigan on Dec. 5.
- In Saturday's win, the Kress Center hosted its 200,000th women's basketball fan and now has a total attendance of 200,609 in its five-year history. Green Bay leads the Horizon League in attendance at 2,253 fans per game.
- Senior Sarah Eichler (Grafton, Wis.) needs just 27 points to become the second Green Bay player to join the 1,000-point club this season. Adrian Ritchie became the 30th member of the club on Nov. 30th against Indianapolis after she drilled an open three from the corner.
- Redshirt senior Jenny Gilbertson (Wabasha, Minn.) had a career day against UIC as she had her first career double-double with 14 points and 13 rebounds-both career highs. Gilbertson has averaged 8.0 points per game during the last four games and averages 3.9 per game overall.
- Redshirt freshman Ellen Edison (Maple Grove, Minn.) made her minutes count against UIC as she made her first collegiate triple. She grabbed a steal and hit both of her free throw attempts, giving her a career-high five points.
- Both Adrian Ritchie and Sarah Eichler had career highs in assists against UIC with eight. It was the first time Eichler hit the mark, and the third for Ritchie who had eight on two other occasions this season.
- After playing less than four minutes per game for the majority of the first half of the season, redshirt junior Sam Zastrow (Algoma, Wis.) has played an average of 17.3 minutes per game over the past four contests. She tied a career high with four points at Valparaiso on Jan. 26, set a career high for rebounds with four at Wright State on Jan. 28 and has had career highs in assists and steals with three and two twice this season.
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