Balanced Green Bay Beats UIC, Moves to Sunday's Championship
GREEN BAY, Wis. (GreenBayPhoenix.com) - Potential All-American and Wooden Award finalist Julie Wojta (Mishicot, Wis.) deservedly garners much of the praise when it comes to No. 10/10 Green Bay (29-1) in 2011-12. However, in top-seeded Green Bay's 73-53 win over fourth-seeded UIC (18-13) in the Horizon League Championship semifinals, it was the team's balance that highlighted the night for 2,478 fans at the Kress Events Center.
Junior Adrian Ritchie (De Pere, Wis.) scored 14 of her team-high 22 points in the second half and fellow junior Sarah Eichler (Grafton, Wis.) made 7-of-8 field goals while tying her career high with 19 points. In a rare occasion when she was slightly overshadowed, Wojta added 13 points and 11 rebounds in becoming Green Bay's all-time leader in double-doubles with the 33rd of her career.
"I thought Sarah and Adrian were so good offensively," said head coach Matt Bollant. "They have had really good seasons for us, and they really stepped up tonight. Both of them got to the rim, made plays and finished. They played with a lot of confidence."
Green Bay advances to Sunday afternoon's Horizon League Championship, where the Phoenix will meet second-seeded Detroit (20-12) at noon. The Titans are the lone team to defeat Green Bay in 2011-12, winning 70-58 on Feb. 9 at the Kress Center. UIC dispatched Wright State 78-70 in Friday's first semifinal behind 30 points from freshman Shareta Brown.
After UIC scored the opening bucket of the game, Green Bay rattled off a 14-2 run to take control of the scoreboard. By the time sophomore Lydia Bauer (Lake Zurich, Ill.) drained a three-pointer to make it 19-7 with 11:41 on the clock, all five Phoenix starters had scored.
Bauer's three started an 11-4 spurt that propelled the Phoenix to a 27-11 advantage with 7:28 to play. Eichler scored the last four points of the run and had 10 at the halftime break, continuing her impressive play in the Horizon League tournament.
Eichler had 14 points in Wednesday's win over Valparaiso, and the All-Horizon League Tournament selection from a season ago has now scored in double figures in three-straight league tourney games and four of the five in the past two seasons.
"The kid has courage," said Bollant of Eichler. "Every year she has stepped up in the Horizon League tournament. Kids that have courage step up when it matters the most."
On the strength of Jasmine Bailey's play, UIC was able to score 15 of the next 20 points to close its gap to six (32-26) at the 3:16 mark. Bailey, who had 15 of her game-high 23 points in the half, hit a triple to start the spurt, which included six UIC field goals in seven attempts.
Wojta quieted the Flames run with four-straight points and Green Bay went into halftime leading 36-28. The senior had 11 points to lead the Phoenix at the intermission.
Ritchie became the third Phoenix player in double figures by burying a triple on the opening possession of the second half as Green Bay started the half hot. The hosts hit four of its first five shots from the field and extended the lead to 14 (46-32) on an Eichler three-point play with 17:17 remaining.
After the Flames closed to single digits, Ritchie capped a 10-4 run with another triple and Green Bay led 55-40. In the first eight minutes of the second half, Ritchie had made all four of her shots and scored 10 points.
UIC was unable to get closer than 12 the rest of the way as Green Bay led by as many as 23 and cruised into the championship game. The Phoenix made 15-of-25 shots after halftime and finished the game at 50.9 percent (28-55). UIC hit just 9-of-27 shots from the field in the second half and shot 36.4 percent (20-55) for the game.
In support of the three Phoenix double-digit scorers, freshman Megan Lukan (Barrie, Ontario) had seven points, five rebounds and four assists.
The Green Bay ticket office in the Kress Center will be open Saturday from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Fans can also order tickets by phone by calling 920.465.2625 on Saturday from 10 a.m.-5 p.m.
Green Bay will host a NCAA Tournament Send-Off Celebration and Selection Show Party on Monday at the Kress Events Center beginning at 5:30 p.m. For more information, click here.
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