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Phoenix roll over Huskies

basketball

Photo by Ken Corry/Fourth Estate

Green Bay junior Megan Lukan pushes the ball up the court against Northern Illinois Nov. 9 at the Kress Events Center.

Marques eversoll , Sports Editor
November 14, 2013
Filed under Sports, Top Stories

After unveiling banners for last year’s Horizon League tournament championship and NCAA tournament appearance, the Green Bay women’s basketball team routed Northern Illinois 78-44 Nov. 8 at the Kress Events Center.

The Phoenix has won the last 15 regular-season championships in the Horizon League, but this season, the team faces the tough challenge of replacing last year’s stellar senior class, which produced 74.6 percent of the team’s scoring.

But for the new-look Phoenix, two players coming off ACL surgery sparked the team to a blowout win. Redshirt freshman forward Mehryn Kraker scored a game-high 13 points — all in the first half — and sophomore guard Kaili Lukan added eight points, three rebounds and a pair of steals.

“We took it day by day,” Lukan said of her recovery. “We were hoping for this game or the game after, but it’s good to be back and it felt good.”

Lukan’s injury occurred five games into the 2012-13 season, preventing her from redshirting and preserving her first year of eligibility. Kraker, however, redshirted prior to tearing her ACL in practice.

“The mental edge is critical in coming back from any injury,” Kraker said. “We do so much work coming back that it can’t be in your head if you’re stepping on the court.”

It was a competitive game at the beginning, as Northern Illinois held a 14-12 lead with more than 11 minutes to play in the first half. From there, the Phoenix ended the first half on a 31-1 run, capped off by redshirt sophomore Ellen Edison’s three as time expired.

“Ellen can shoot,” Borseth said. “She’s a very good shooter. The fact that she made that one at the end of the first half wasn’t a mistake.”

With a commanding 43-15 halftime lead, the Phoenix had the game well in hand as it took the court for the final 20 minutes. Green Bay’s largest lead was 39 points, which came with 2:27 remaining after a 3-pointer by redshirt sophomore Taylor Thomas.

“We’re a very young team,” Kraker said. “We’ve got two returning girls who started and played a lot and there’s going to be a lot of adjustments that will continue to be made. You’re going to see a lot of ups and downs, but hopefully more ups.”

Green Bay’s two returning key players, point guard Megan Lukan and forward Breannah Ranger, made their presence felt on both ends of the court. Lukan dished out a game-high six assists, while Ranger posted a double-double with 12 points and 10 rebounds. Green Bay outscored Northern Illinois 44-10 in the paint.

“We need (Ranger) to play well, obviously,” Borseth said. “She has to play well for us on both ends of the court because she’s really the kid who has the experience down low and that’s where we start everything.”

Despite having to replace much of last year’s production, the Phoenix got off to a promising start to the 2013-14 season in a convincing 34-point win. Green Bay shot 50.9 percent from the field, whereas Northern Illinois shot 30.6 percent.

“There’s nothing like winning a game,” Borseth said. “When you do that, it really bodes well for your confidence. They’ve shown themselves they have that ability because Northern Illinois is a very good team. Now, they have to go on the road and they’re going to have something to dig back and feed off because going on the road is a little more difficult.”

The Huskies, led by head coach Kathi Bennett, are coming off a 7-23 season a year ago. Bennett, who played at Green Bay, is the daughter of Dick Bennett, former Green Bay men’s basketball coach and current mentor to the men’s program and the sister of Tony Bennett, a standout point guard for Green Bay and current men’s basketball coach at Virginia.

The Phoenix will travel east to play St. Bonaventure in Allegany, N.Y., Nov. 15, before facing off against Duquesne Nov. 17 in Pittsburgh, Pa. The Phoenix will play in the TD Bank Classic Nov. 22-23 in Burlington, Vt., and the Maine Thanksgiving Tournament Nov. 29-30 in Orono, Maine before returning home Dec. 7 for a game against South Dakota State.

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