By Rachel Buck (@GBRachel)
ROCHESTER, Mich. (GreenBayPhoenix.com) —Tied at 12-all with 9:42 remaining in the first half, the Green Bay women’s basketball team put together a big 24-9 run to close the half as it defeated Horizon League newcomer Oakland, 74-58, on Thursday evening at the Athletic Center O’rena.
Led by a 16 point effort from freshman Mehryn Kraker (West Allis, Wis.) the Phoenix improved to 11-7 overall and 4-2 in the conference while Oakland dropped to 8-12 overall and 3-4 in the league. Kraker finished the game shooting 5-of-7 from the field and 4-of-5 from deep, hitting timely shots to help the Phoenix momentum. The defense was also strong, limiting Oakland to 35.1 percent shooting for the game while holding its leading scorer, Elena Popkey, without a field goal.
“Once we stopped turning over the ball, we were able to settle into the game,” head coach Kevin Borseth said. “I felt our defense played strong and we were able to keep them out of the lane. And with Mehryn hitting key shots she really helped to keep us in the game.”
It was a slow and sloppy start to the game, as both teams combined to shoot 13.0 percent (3-23) with five turnovers over the first 11:48 of the half. Despite the poor shooting the Phoenix held a 10-3 lead at that point before Oakland responded with a 9-2 run to tie the score at 12-12 with 9:24 remaining.
That’s when the Phoenix came alive, going on a 13-0 run over the next five minutes to jump out to a 25-12 advantage. Sophomore Kaili Lukan (Barrie, Ontario) provided the spark Green Bay needed, scoring the first six points with a pair of layups and free throws. Senior Breannah Ranger (Skokie, Ill.) added four points, while freshman Kraker found her stride from deep with a three.
The Golden Grizzlies broke their scoreless drought with a pair of free throws at the 4:11 mark (25-14), but Green Bay closed the opening stanza with another run, this time 12-7, to go into the break with a 37-21 lead. Five different Phoenix scored during the run, wrapping up a first half that saw 10 Green Bay players on the court with nine registering at least a point.
Green Bay started the game shooting 20 percent (2-10) from the field but rebounded to go 57.9 percent (11-19) in the final 12:24 of the half. The Phoenix defense proved stingy, limiting the Golden Grizzlies to just two field goals over the final nine minutes and 22.2 percent (6-27) shooting overall.
“We’re going out and playing aggressive and that’s what we want them to do,” Borseth said. “At some point you have to let them do it. Our key was to take care of the ball and once we limited unforced errors we took control.”
Oakland made it interesting in the opening minutes of the second half, using a 12-5 run while forcing seven Phoenix turnovers to get back to within single digits, 42-33, with 14:53 on the clock. However, on the next trip down sophomore Ellen Edison (Maple Grove, Minn.) was fouled and connected on both of her free throws to put the Green Bay lead back at double digits, where it remained the rest of the contest. The Phoenix led by as many as 20 points with just over two minutes remaining before cruising to the 74-58 triumph.
Eleven Phoenix scored in the game as Kaili Lukan continued her strong play finishing with 15 points. Freshman Tesha Buck (Red Wing, Minn.) added a career-high 10 rebounds and Ranger tied a career best with 11 boards.
The Phoenix finished shooting 46.3 percent (25-54) from the field and outrebounded the Golden Grizzlies 45-28 for its second straight 40+ rebounding performance.
Oakland went 35.1 percent (20-57) from the field. Bethany Watterworth led OU with 28 points.
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