By Justin Grones (@JustinGrones)
VALPARAISO, Ind. (GreenBayPhoenix.com) - Senior Adrian Ritchie (De Pere, Wis.) finished just two rebounds and two assists shy of a triple-double as the Green Bay women's basketball team defeated Valparaiso 78-55 on the road for its 10th straight win. The victory improves the Phoenix, which is receiving votes in both Top-25 polls, to 15-2 overall and 5-0 in the Horizon League, while the Crusaders dropped to 7-11 overall and 2-3 in conference play.
"Defensively we weren't as sharp today, you have to give Valparaiso credit," head coach Kevin Borseth said. "They were stronger than us in a lot of areas, but our kids adjusted well. Any time you win on the road-especially when you win by 20-that's significant."
Green Bay opened the game with an 11-4 lead after three three's from seniors Sarah Eichler (Grafton, Wis.), Stephanie Sension (Hopkins, Minn.) and Jenny Gilbertson (Wabasha, Minn.). The Phoenix made its first three attempts from behind the arc, and finished the game shooting nearly 43 percent from long range.
Ritchie used a no-look pass to Sension and hit a three on the next possession to extend the lead to 17-4. Green Bay held Valparaiso scoreless for more than six minutes in the first half on an 11-0 run.
"She (Ritchie) really fills the stat sheet and does a lot of good things for us. She had four rebounds in a row for us, and overall she's just an outstanding player. She deserves all the recognition she gets because she really works hard for us," Borseth said.
Valparaiso cut Green bay's lead to 10 at 24-14 with 5:35 remaining in the first half, but Lydia Bauer (Lake Zurich, Ill.) responded with an open three from the corner. Bauer finished the game with 11 points and five rebounds.
Ritchie scored five consecutive points for the Phoenix to close the half, snapping a 6-0 Crusaders run with a layup and then another layup and the foul on the next trip down the court. Valparaiso's Gina Lange, who finished with a game-high 18 points, hit a jumper to cut Green Bay's lead to 34-22 going into the half.
The Phoenix opened the second half with five unanswered points after Sension scored in the post on a feed from Bauer and a Bauer hit a three on the next possession. However, the Crusaders used an 11-2 run to bring Green Bay's lead to single digits at 41-33 with 15:18 remaining. Two free throws from Megan Lukan (Barrie, Ontario) answered the run, and sparked a 16-2 streak for the Phoenix over the next 4:17 to push the lead to 57-35.
Redshirt junior Breannah Ranger (Skokie, Ill.) didn't attempt a shot in the first half, but helped fuel the Phoenix run with 13 points-just two shy of tying her career high. Ranger shot 5-of-6 from the field and 3-3 from the charity stripe and blocked a shot while playing 19 minutes.
With the shot clock winding down, Eichler sank an NBA-length three to extend the lead to 20 points at 71-51 with 3:33 remaining. Eichler had 11 points in the game, giving her 958 points for her career. From there, Borseth was able to give all 11 players time on the court and seal the 10th straight victory for the Phoenix.
Sension finished the game with nine points and two blocks, while Lukan added eight points and seven assists. Gilbertson had five points on a perfect day from the floor, while redshirt junior Sam Zastrow (Algoma, Wis.) was one point shy of tying a career high with four points on the day. Redshirt freshman Taylor Thomas (Wausau, Wis.) also scored two points late in the game.
"We need to have as much production from as many people as possible," Borseth said. "All of these kids work really hard in practice and in the game when they see minutes on the court, so it's great to be able to give them a chance to play."
Valparaiso became the first team since Central Michigan on Dec. 5 to score more than 50 points. The Phoenix entered the game with the nation's best scoring defense at 46.7 points per game and have held 12 of 17 opponents below 50 points this season. Green Bay shot 59.6 percent from the floor, including a 66.7 (16-24) mark in the second half.
The Phoenix will remain on the road to conclude a four-game road trip at Wright State on Monday night. Green Bay defeated the Raiders at the Kress Center on Jan. 12.
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