Defense Dominates in Horizon League Opener
By Justin Grones (@JustinGrones)
GREEN BAY, Wis. (GreenBayPhoenix.com) - Last season when Green Bay played Detroit, then-freshman Shareeta Brown averaged 21.6 points in three meetings. This year, the nation's second leading scorer at 26.0 points per game was held to a season-low eight points as Green Bay (11-2, 1-0 HL) and its nationally fifth-best defense continued its streak of dominance defeating Detroit (7-6, 0-1 HL) 62-31 in the Horizon League opener.
Green Bay set the defensive tone early, forcing a Detroit shot clock violation on the first possession of the game. On the ensuing possession, Senior Sarah Eichler (Grafton, Wis.) took a pass from fellow senior Lydia Bauer (Lake Zurich, Ill.) in transition and laid it in for the first points of the game.
"I think our defense played well, they had to. We're stingy, these kids play hard and help each other and they're in the right spot at the right time," head coach Kevin Borseth said.
The Phoenix stretched the lead to 5-3 before Detroit sophomore Shareeta Brown, the nation's second-leading scorer at 26.0 points per game, was fouled and went to the line. Brown made both attempts, but the two points were the only two she would score in the first half. With two fouls, she saw just 10 minutes on the court in the opening frame.
Tied at 5-5, Green Bay started a 7-2 run with an Eichler layup. Less than a minute later senior Adrian Ritchie (De Pere, Wis.) drilled a three, starting a streak of eight consecutive points for the Phoenix's leading scorer.
Detroit was able to cut the lead to 17-14 with 6:15 remaining in the first half, but from there the Phoenix used an 11-0 run to take a 28-14 lead into the locker room. Ritchie finished the first half with a game-high 12 points on a perfect 5-5 from the field including 2-2 from long range.
A 9-2 run to open the second half forced Detroit to call a timeout after Megan Lukan (Barrie, Ontario, Canada) forced one of Detroit's 18 turnovers on the night and found Ritchie, who dished it to Bauer for the finish. The Phoenix scored 22 points off Titan turnovers, tying a season high.
A layup from Breannah Ranger (Skokie, Ill.) with 11:07 remaining moved the lead to 46-23, but sparked a scoreless drought from both teams for the next 3:07. During that span, Ranger grabbed three rebounds and blocked a shot. Ranger scored just two points on the night, but grabbed a game-high nine boards.
With 5:28 on the clock, Ritchie grabbed her seventh steal of the game, setting a new career high. She found Lukan on the other end for the score and the foul. Lukan hit her attempt from the charity stripe, pushing the lead to 51-26. Ritchie finished with 19 points on 8-of-11 shooting and also had four assists.
Green Bay closed the game on a 9-3 run over the final 4:12, including four points from reserve players Sam Zastrow (Algoma, Wis.) and Taylor Thomas (Wausau, Wis.). Zastrow, who finished the game with two points, an assist and a steal, knocked down a turnaround 15-footer with 1:58 remaining. Thomas grabbed an offensive rebound and dished it to Ranger, who fed it back to Thomas in the lane for the lay in for the final points of the evening.
After holding Detroit, who entered the contest in the top-25 in the nation in shooting percentage, to just 26.8 percent from the floor, Green Bay has held five opponents to less than 30 percent shooting this season. The win also marks the ninth time Green Bay has kept an opponent under 50 points, and the fourth time an opponent hasn't reached 40 points. The Titans' 31 points was the lowest total an opponent has had against the Phoenix this season.
For the sixth straight game, Green Bay impressed in the paint by holding a 34-14 advantage over Detroit. During the six-game winning streak, the Phoenix has outscored opponents 206-64 down low.
Lukan scored 11 points, and had an impressive six rebounds, six assists and three steals. Bauer also added 11, while Eichler pitched in 10.
Brown was Detroit's leading scorer and rebounder with eight points and five boards after attempting just four shots from the field.
"She's an incredibly talented player, and every time you play her you're going to have your hands full," Borseth said.
Green Bay remains at home to finish up a three-game homestand, welcoming Wright State and Horizon League Preseason Player of the Year Kim Demmings on Saturday. Tipoff, originally set for 2 p.m., will be at noon as part of the Back-to-Back-to-Pack promotion.
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