UW-Green Bay stomps Valparaiso
Wojta carries Phoneix with 17 points, six steals
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- This wasn't the best performance of the season for No. 10 Wisconsin-Green Bay, but it was good enough to put the Phoenix one step closer to an automatic berth in the NCAA tournament.
Julie Wojta scored 17 points and UW-Green Bay pulled away in the second half to beat Valparaiso 77-53 on Wednesday night, and advance to the semifinals of the Horizon League tournament.
''There was a bit of a lull. We weren't playing with the type of energy that we wanted to coming out but I think we fixed it,'' Wojta said. ''Later in the first half we came alive a little bit more, were flying around, playing better defense, talking more. Overall, we're happy with it and glad to get this win, and we're ready to move on and get ready for Friday.''
Wojta, the Horizon player of the year and defensive player of the year, also notched six steals to break the school's single-season record with 105.
''It's an honor and very cool, especially with the people that have been in this program -- very good athletes and good basketball players,'' Wojta said.
Valparaiso (10-21), which was outscored 137-73 in two regular-season meetings with the Phoenix, trailed 44-35 roughly seven minutes into the second half before Green Bay (28-1) went on a 15-0 run to put the game away.
''They didn't score much in the half-court defense, they scored in transition off turnovers, and that's the Achilles' heel for us,'' Valpo coach Keith Freeman said.
The Crusaders kept it close early, holding Green Bay to just seven points in the first eight minutes for a 10-7 lead. The Phoenix then went on a 13-0 run to take a 20-10 lead. Valpo closed the gap to three at one point but Green Bay never trailed again.
Green Bay coach Matt Bollant said he was impressed with Valpo's tenacity, especially considering the Crusaders played only one reserve and all of their starters logged over 30 minutes.
''Those kids played four games in a week and they've got six players playing a lot of minutes and I thought those kids really fought,'' Bollant said. ''I told (Valpo coach) Keith (Freeman) he should be really proud of those players because those kids fought and played with great energy and it really made things tough on us.''
Wojta scored 15 points, including her team's last seven of the first half, to help the Phoenix take a 38-25 lead at the break.
''Julie, in the first half, was huge,'' Bollant said. ''When everyone else was not playing great she really carried us in that first half and helped us build a lead.''
Sarah Eichler scored 14 points and Adrian Ritchie added 12 for the Phoenix.
Green Bay shot 29 of 56 (51 percent) from the field.
Tabitha Gerardot had 19 points and eight rebounds for Valpo. Ashley Varner added 14 points and Gina Lange had 11.