Women's Basketball Survives and Advances with 68-59 Win over UIC
By Rachel Buck (@GBRachel)
GREEN BAY, Wis. (GreenBayPhoenix.com) – In a tense battle to advance to the Sunday finals of the Horizon League Women’s Basketball Tournament, Green Bay used a late run in the first half and held on to the lead the rest of the way as it topped UIC, 68-59, on Friday evening at the Kress Events Center.
Top-seeded Green Bay survived and advanced to face second seed Wright State in Sunday’s championship tilt slated for noon. The Raiders knocked off No. 3 Youngstown State in the first semifinal of the night, 98-70.
Green Bay received all but four of its points from the starting five tonight, including a career-high 24 points from freshman Tesha Buck (Red Wing, Minn.), who was 8-for-11 from the field and a near perfect 5-for-6 from deep.
Trailing for most of the first half, the Phoenix found itself in a seven-point deficit (25-18) with just under five minutes remaining. That’s when the Green Bay offense came alive, closing on a 16-5 run to go into halftime with a 34-30 lead. Buck scored nine of Green Bay’s 16 points during the run, while sophomore Kaili Lukan (Barrie, Ontario) added three and freshman Mariah Monke (Fergus Falls, Minn.) four.
It was an 11-0 run over 3:09 that helped the Phoenix take back the lead for the first time since the 17:58 mark. Buck started the run with a corner three before Kaili Lukan hit the back end of a pair of free throws and Monke sank a layup. Buck then hit her fourth three-point shot of the half to put Green Bay ahead, 27-25 with 2:12 on the clock. Monke closed the 11-0 run with another layup before UIC’s Terri Bender ended the Phoenix streak with a three. However, the Phoenix closed on a 5-2 run in the final minute to take the lead into halftime.
Green Bay built its lead to as many as eight points (38-30) in the early going of the second stanza but the Flames kept it close for the majority of the half, pulling to within four points on several occasions. However, each time the Phoenix found a defensive stop and a response on the offensive end to keep the visitors at bay.
The Phoenix put the game away for good with just under four minutes remaining. Holding on to a five point lead, 55-50, a quick 5-0 run keyed by an and-1 from junior Megan Lukan (Barrie, Ontario) and a layup by sister Kaili gave the Phoenix a 10-point cushion with 2:48 on the clock. UIC crept to within single digits down the stretch but Green Bay held strong for the final 68-59 margin.
Four of Green Bay’s five starters finished in double digits led by Buck’s 24, 14 from Kaili Lukan, 12 by sister Megan and 10 from senior Breannah Ranger (Skokie, Ill.). Freshman Mehryn Kraker (West Allis, Wis.) chipped in four points, while Monke was the only bench player to score for the Phoenix tonight with four points. Megan Lukan also added a game-high eight assists.
Green Bay finished the game shooting 53.1 percent (26-49) from the field but struggled at the free throw line, going just 11-for-23 (47.8%). UIC won the battle on the boards, 37-30, but the Phoenix dominated play in the paint, 42-19, and also had 19 assists on 26 baskets.
Rachel Story led UIC with 20 points, while Ruvanna Campbell had a game-high 14 rebounds.
It will be a battle of the league’s top defense against the league’s top offense on Sunday. Green Bay swept the season series, including a 79-72 overtime thriller on February 27.
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