By Justin Grones (@JustinGrones)
GREEN BAY, Wis. (GreenBayPhoenix.com) - With two more wins in the books following last week's two-game road trip, the No. 20/20 Green Bay women's basketball (24-2, 14-0 HL) will play its final regular season home game against Loyola (14-13, 9-5 HL) on Thursday at 7 p.m. The game pits the two hottest teams in the Horizon League, as Green Bay has won 19 straight games and Loyola has won its previous seven contests. The Phoenix handed Loyola its last loss exactly one month prior to this meeting in a 65-62 nail-biter in Chicago on Feb. 7.
Green Bay capped off last weekend with a dominating defensive performance at UIC, smothering the Flames in a 67-36 victory. The Phoenix jumped out to a 15-0 lead after UIC missed its first 10 shots, and a 9-0 run late in the first half to push the lead to 42-18 was enough to put the game away by the intermission. Senior Sarah Eichler (Grafton, Wis.) scored a game-high 16 points on 6-8 shooting, while the Flames failed to put a player in double-digit scoring. Green Bay shot 46.2 percent overall with a 36.4 percent mark from long range, while UIC hit only 25.5 percent of its field goals and just 8.3 percent from behind the arc.
SCOUTING LOYOLA: The Ramblers have won seven straight and eight of their last 10 to jump in front of Detroit for the third-place spot in the Horizon League standings. During the month-long winning streak, Loyola has defeated both Detroit and second-place Youngstown State and has scored 90 or more points on two occasions. In the last contest, Loyola thrashed Milwaukee 92-76 at home on Feb. 28.
NARROW ESCAPE: Green Bay was able to escape the Windy City on a snowy Feb. 7 evening with a 65-62 win over Loyola at the Gentile Center. Trailing 26-25 at the break, the Phoenix was able to battle back in a game that featured eight ties, 12 lead changes and neither team leading by more than six points. Down 62-61 late in the game, Breannah Ranger (Skokie, Ill.) scored four unanswered points to grant the visiting team a 65-62 advantage. The Ramblers had a chance at a 3-point attempt with two seconds remaining, but the shot rimmed off to seal the Phoenix victory.
MISTAKE-FREE MATCHUP: Both Green Bay and Loyola are two of the best teams in Division I women's basketball when it comes to limiting turnovers. The Ramblers enter Thursday's contest with the nation's second-best mark for turnovers per game with an average of just 11.6. Loyola also ranks 11th in assist-to-turnover ratio at 1.19 and 15th in turnover margin at plus-5.52. The Phoenix holds down the 21st ranking in turnovers per game at 13.6 while coming in at 5th in assist-to-turnover ratio. Green Bay's plus-5.42 turnover margin is good for the 21st spot in Division I women's basketball.
TAKING A TOLL ON THE POLLS: The Phoenix continued to move up in both polls this week, first claiming the No. 20 spot in the AP Top-25 poll after holding down the No. 21 spot last week. In the USA Today Coaches poll released on Tuesday, Green Bay jumped three places to No. 20 after coming in last week at No. 23. Green Bay is once again the No. 2 team trailing only Delaware in the College Insider Mid-Major poll, but received just one first-place vote in this week's edition.
GO GREEN: Thursday's game will be a "Green" game as part of "RecyleMania" week on campus. As part of the game, Wisconsin Public Service's NatureWise program will provide renewable energy for the game and will have a booth on hand to promote this new program. The Zero-Waste Coalition will also have a booth at the game to highlight its efforts to make Green Bay a "zero waste" community, and fans are invited to bring their reusable water bottles from home as a special tap will be available to fill them. In addition, a special recycling halftime game will be unveiled. For more information, visit the UW-Green Bay Sustainability Blog.
EICHLER'S EXCELLENCE: Sarah Eichler continued her hot streak in both games last week, first picking up 12 points on a perfect 4-4 shooting from downtown at Detroit. In Saturday's win at UIC, the recent 1,000-point club member led the way with 16 points on a 6-8 day from the field. She's scored 11 or more points in the last six games, and has moved into second-place in the Horizon League for 3-point field goal percentage with a 40.7 percent mark.
TOURNAMENT TALK: Green Bay will once again host the Horizon League Tournament, which begins on Wednesday, March 13. The Kress Center has hosted every Horizon League Tournament since its opening for the 2007-08 season. As of Charlie Creme's ESPN Bracketology update on Monday, the Phoenix is currently predicted to be a No. 7 seed in the Queens, N.Y. regional against No. 10 seed St. John's.
LUKAN GOOD OUT THERE: Redshirt sophomore Megan Lukan (Barrie, Ontario) has been on a tear from long range over the past three games, connecting on 12 of 27 attempts after hitting just six of 34 3-pointers in the 23 games prior. In the win at Detroit, Lukan went 0-5 from behind the arc in the first half before connecting on an incredible 6-8 from downtown in the final 20 minutes. In the effort, she tied the program's third-best mark for 3-point field goals in a game with six, and set the new program record with 13 attempts.
FOLLOW IT LIVE: Fans can listen live on Thursday as Bruce VandenPlas will have the call on The Fan 107.5 FM, 1400 AM and TheFan1075.com. Live stats and live video on the Horizon League Network will also be available. Be sure to follow @GBPhoenixWBB and @JustinGrones on Twitter for updates throughout the game.
NEXT ON THE SCHEDULE: Green Bay closes the 2012-13 regular season with a
trip to battle rival Milwaukee on Saturday, March 9. The Phoenix defeated the
Panthers exactly one month prior to this meeting with a 64-49
win on Alumni Day.
For the latest and most up-to-date information on Green Bay Athletics, please visit GreenBayPhoenix.com.