By: Jill Wunrow
MILWAUKEE, Wis. (GreenBayPhoenix.com) - Senior Julie Wojta (Francis Creek, Wis.) dominated the first half en route to lead No. 17/14 Green Bay (13-0, 3-0 HL) to an 88-53 win over in-state rival Milwaukee (4-9, 0-3 HL) Saturday at the Klotsche Center in Milwaukee. Wojta grabbed a program and conference-record 12 steals in Green Bay's 29th consecutive regular season win over a Horizon League opponent.
"Great game for the Phoenix it was tight in the first half and then we went to the buzz and Julie kept knowing where they were going to throw the ball," said head coach Matt Bollant who has never lost to the Panthers.
The game appeared to start as if it would be a back and forth battle throughout with six lead changes in the opening seven minutes. At the 14:03 mark, Milwaukee's Angela Rodriguez drained a three to give the Panthers the 12-10 lead before Wojta answered with a jumper on the next possession to knot it 12-12.
Sarah Eichler (Grafton, Wis.) scored two of her nine points at the 13-minute mark, giving the Phoenix the lead for good (14-12).
After Milwaukee's Courtney Lindfors grabbed a defensive rebound at the 11:44 mark, Wojta took it right back out of the hands of Lindfors before capitalizing when Ritchie found her on the right wing for the three and the 17-12 advantage.
Wojta led Green Bay a 24-0 run with 15 points, including three from beyond the arc, seven steals and two assists in 12 minutes of play.
"The run just came within the flow and because of the ball pressure a lot of times I happen to be at the right place at the right time," Wojta humbly said of her performance.
With 8:27 to play in the first half, Adrian Ritchie (De Pere, Wis.) found Wojta for her third three of the contest to boost the Phoenix lead to 19 (31-12) before Ritchie added a three of her own after a Panther turnover.
Green Bay's defense forced 10 turnovers while holding the Panthers scoreless for over six minutes of play until sinking a pair of free throws with 7:42 remaining in the first half.
"That run was pretty amazing not only by Julie but by our entire team moving the ball and the ball pressure we put on their guards," said Bollant of the impressive run. "Milwaukee was throwing the ball where they weren't comfortable which was helping us get the steals we were able to."
With just under six minutes to play, Wojta had a career high nine steals before posting her seventh double double of the season with 10 steals and 17 points with 3:54 to play in the opening half. Green Bay went into the lockerroom with a commanding 47-21 lead as Wojta had 19 points, 11 steals and five assists in 19 minutes of play.
"At halftime we talked about showing competitive maturity, handling things the right way and the way we did that was by playing everyone," Bollant said of his approach in the second half.
Wojta scored eight points in the first six minutes in the second half while grabbing her 12th steal of the game, setting a new Horizon League record. The NCAA single game record for steals is 14.
"I knew she was getting close to our program record, I didn't know how close she was to the NCAA record and even if I did I'm not sure I would've done anything any different," Bollant said of the decision to take Wojta out of the game as planned. "We think about doing the right things and to leave a player in for something like a record and risk injuries is not smart."
With the game in hand at the half, Bollant was able to play every player for at least 12 minutes with everyone scoring for the Phoenix and Wojta leading all players with 27. Jenny Gilbertson (Wabasha, Minn.) scored a career-high 12 points while going 4-for-6 from the field in 18 minutes of play. Lydia Bauer (Lake Zurich, Ill.) finished the game with 10 points after scoring eight in the first half, including two three pointers.
As a team, Green Bay dished out a season high 27 assists on 32 field goals while extending its regular season winning streak to 33 games. Its 59-percent shooting for the game was the second highest of the season for the Phoenix as it scored 36 points off Milwaukee's 27 turnovers before finishing with a season-high 88 points in the win.
UP NEXT: Green Bay will continue Horizon League road play Thursday, Jan. 12 as it travels to Dayton, Ohio to battle Wright State at 6 p.m. The Phoenix wraps up its travels with a stop at Detroit Jan. 14.
Season tickets, Pick 5 packages and single-game tickets for both men's and women's basketball programs are currently on sale with the Green Bay ticket office. For more information, please visit GreenBayPhoenix.com/tickets.
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