By Justin Grones (@JustinGrones)
GREEN BAY, Wis. (GreenBayPhoenix.com) - The Green Bay women's basketball team (RV/RV, 14-2, 4-0 HL) is currently riding a nine-game winning streak, and although the team's offense hasn't always been as productive as head coach Kevin Borseth would like to be, the Phoenix is leading the nation in scoring defense at just 46.7 points allowed per game. Green Bay's entire roster has found ways to contribute during the winning streak, even after losing key reserve Kaili Lukan (Barrie, Ontario) for the season due to a knee injury.
It was Lukan's electrifying performance in a comeback win at Marquette on Dec. 8 that helped spark the winning streak after the freshman scored six points and grabbed a game-high six steals while playing a career-high 17 minutes. She entered the game at Wright State on Jan. 12 averaging 1.5 points and 1.2 rebounds per game, but a knee injury midway through the second half would sideline her for the rest of the season, leaving a void in Borseth's bench rotation.
"To start the year we worried about how we were going to replace Julie Wojta, but then when Kaili got hurt we had to worry replacing someone as tough and feisty as her on defense," Borseth said.
Despite having one less player on the roster, Green Bay's starters and reserve players have continued the team's streak of defensive dominance, allowing just 46.7 points per game-the nation's best mark. During the past nine games, the Phoenix has given up an average of only 41.1 points per game and hasn't allowed an opponent to shoot better than 38.8 percent from the field, keeping opponents at an average mark of 30.7 percent.
In the win against Wisconsin on Dec. 23, the Phoenix held its in-state rival to just 10 points in the first half, setting a new mark in Badgers' history for fewest points scored in a half. Three games later, Green Bay doubled-up Detroit 62-31, allowing the third-fewest points by an opponent in the last 30 years. The win was the third time during the winning streak an opponent scored in the thirties. Green Bay has held opponents under 50 points in 12 of 16 games this season, and in every game of the winning streak.
Redshirt junior Breannah Ranger (Skokie, Ill.) has led Green Bay's bench during the winning streak scoring 7.2 points per game on 52.8 percent shooting. Ranger recorded her first career double-double in the win against Wright State, scoring 12 points and grabbing 11 rebounds. For the season, Ranger leads the Phoenix in field goal percentage at 52.3 percent.
Senior leadership has been provided off the bench from Jenny Gilbertson (Wabasha, Minn.), who has averaged 3.4 points per game on 50.0 percent shooting during the streak. In the 59-41 win at Youngstown State on Jan. 19, Gilbertson tied a season high after hitting three attempts from behind the arc. In addition to hitting three of four attempts from downtown, Gilbertson also blocked a season-high two shots.
With one less guard on the bench, redshirt junior Sam Zastrow (Algoma, Wis.) has stepped her game up and become a solid backup to starting point guard Megan Lukan (Barrie, Ontario). Zastrow scored her first points of the year against St. Bonaventure on Jan. 5 after driving through the entire Bonnies' defense for the layup. She played a career-high 18 minutes at Youngstown State, where she grabbed three rebounds and added three assists and two steals. Although she didn't score, she gained praise from Borseth for her vision of the court on offense and stingy play on defense.
The Phoenix, now receiving votes in both the AP Top-25 and USA Today Coaches' Poll, will look for its 10th straight win and continued team effort at Valparaiso on Saturday, Jan. 26 with a 1:35 central time tip. The four-game road stretch concludes with the second meeting of the season against Wright State on Monday night in Dayton, Ohio.
- Green Bay received one vote in the AP Top-25 poll and two votes in the USA Today Coaches' Poll for the week of Jan. 21.
- The Phoenix currently leads the nation in scoring defense, allowing just 46.7 points per game. During the past nine games, opponents have scored an average of just 41.1 points per contest.
- The Phoenix also ranks seventh in the nation in turnovers per game (13.1), assist-turnover ratio (1.23) and turnover margin (+7.44).
- Green Bay leads the Horizon League in scoring margin at +16.5, and boasts a scoring margin of nearly 20 points per game during the winning streak.
- Green Bay is shooting 45.1 percent from the field over the past nine games with five players shooting 50 percent or better.
- After being outrebounded for the majority of the first seven games of the season, Green Bay boasts a +1.9 rebounding margin with 33.3 boards per game during the streak.
- The Phoenix will return to the Kress Center for the first time in three weeks on Feb. 2nd when UIC visits the Kress Center for a 2 p.m. matchup.
- Senior Sarah Eichler (Grafton, Wis.) needs just 53 points to become the 31st member of the Green Bay women's basketball 1,000 point club and the second to join this season. The Grafton, Wis. native has 947 points for her career.
- Senior Lydia Bauer (Lake Zurich, Ill.) has overcome early season woes from behind the arc, and has connected on 45.3 percent of her attempts over the past nine games. In the win at Youngstown State, she hit both of her attempts from long range, including an NBA-length three to beat the buzzer at the half.
- Freshman Brionna Barnett (Elkhart, Ind.) has given Borseth another option at guard off the bench and has continued to perform when given minutes on the court. In the win against Wright State, she drilled a three and grabbed a rebound a steal.
- Breannah Ranger is shooting a team-best 52.3 percent for the season, and has become a dominating force in the post. Ranger averaged 5.9 points and 4.4 rebounds per game this season, and has just 10 turnovers on the year.
- Redshirt senior Stephanie Sension (Hopkins, Minn.) has scored in double figures in nine of 16 games this season. Sension is in her first season as a regular starter, and paced Green Bay in the road trip last week with 16 points at Cleveland State and 12 points at Youngstown State while shooting a combined 60.8 percent during the two games.
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