GREEN BAY, Wis. (GreenBayPhoenix.com) - As the No. 13/11 Green Bay (32-1) women's basketball team prepares for its 12th and second-consecutive trip to the NCAA Tournament, the Phoenix will be faced with the challenge of stopping UALR's dominant force in 6'1" Chastity Reed, who is averaging 19.4 points and 6.3 boards per contest. The Phoenix will look to use its not-so-secret weapon to contain Reed and UALR - its defense.
"Everything starts with our defense and our ability to get stops," said Horizon League Coach of the Year Matt Bollant. "We want the challenge of other teams having to rise up and make plays against us so we can become even better on the defensive end."
Green Bay, the fifth seed in the Dallas Region, will take on 12th-seeded UALR (23-7) in its first round NCAA Tournament contest at 4:20 p.m. CT Sunday in Wichita, Kan.
Heading into that contest led by Horizon League Co-Defensive Player of the Year Celeste Hoewisch (Hortonville, Wis.) and All-Defensive Team selection Kayla Tetschlag (Sheboygan, Wis.), Green Bay is ranked seventh in the nation in scoring defense, holding its opponents to an average of 52 points per game, and is 10th in three-point field-goal defense.
"Defensively is where it starts for us and where it should start every single game," said Hoewisch. "Defense wins games for us when we're not shooting the ball well. When we're on edge defensively, it transfers over to the offensive end."
Green Bay takes a lot of pride in its defense, using roughly 70 percent of its practice time working on defensive stops compared to 30 percent on the offensive side of the ball.
"Ever since I got to Green Bay the focus has been on defense, especially this late in the year," said Tetschlag, who along with Hoewisch, leads the team with 78 steals on the year.
Not only does the Phoenix work hard and often on its defense, there's also a lot of pride at stake. "It's not acceptable to get beat one on one," said Hoewisch. "We try and rely on each other and I think ownership builds trust, knowing you can get out and deny. It helps us be aggressive in the passing lanes when you trust your teammates."
Throughout non-conference play, Green Bay has not given up more than 75 points, which came during its second game of the season on November 14 in a 79-75 win over Minnesota. In Horizon League play, the Phoenix led the way in scoring defense holding its opponents to an average of just 51 points per contest. No conference opponent scored more points against the Phoenix than Cleveland State's 63 on February 3.
"Defense is something we can be consistent in, it doesn't change," Bollant said. "There are a lot of teams that don't win championships because they're not consistent defensively and they don't make it a priority. Teams that can win on a consistent basis are good defensively."
As Green Bay prepares for UALR in the NCAA Tournament, it won't just be focusing on stopping Reed, but rather playing Green Bay defense the way it knows how.
"I think when teams get to the NCAA Tournament you can get caught up in trying to change too much and you have to stick with what's got you to this point, and for us, that's playing Green Bay basketball," said Hoewisch.
In Sunday's first round game, it will be Horizon League Co-Player of the Year Tetschlag matched up against the Sun Belt Conference Player of the Year Reed.
"I'm looking forward to it. If I don't score one point and just defend her and shut her down I'll be really happy," Tetschlag said. "I just need to remind myself what I'm doing defensively and stay focused on that."
For more information on the NCAA Tournament and for exclusive content on the Phoenix throughout the postseason, please visit GreenBayPhoenix.com's NCAA Tournament Central presented by Taco Bell.