GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) Julie Wojta came through with a performance No. 10 Wisconsin-Green Bay is used to getting from its standout senior. Freshman Megan Lukan also had a strong game for the Phoenix when they needed it.
Wojta had 29 points and 12 rebounds, Lukan scored 20 points and Green Bay beat Detroit 66-53 to win the Horizon League tournament title and return to the NCAA tournament for a fourth straight year.
The Phoenix (30-1) were all but assured an at-large NCAA bid even if the Titans had won, but Green Bay avenged its only regular-season loss and made its case for a high seed when the tournament pairings are released Monday.
”Your senior year you want it to end the way you picture it and that’s exactly what this was,” Wojta said. ”It was a close exciting game and there’s more emotion behind it and we had to fight for it and really come together as a team. I think just that feeling of doing that and coming out with a win is something you’ll remember.”
Wojta, the conference player of the year, was also selected tournament MVP as she had double-doubles in both the semifinal and final games. However, was Lukan who provided the big lift when Green Bay was in trouble early on.
Detroit (20-13) led by nine early, but Lukan had 11 points - including three 3-pointers - in the first half to help the Phoenix pull to 30-27 at the break.
Lukan downplayed her big game, saying it was a result of the Titans focusing on the Phoenix’s other scoring threats, but Wojta said Lukan’s contribution was immense.
”Don’t let her fool you. She’s a freshman and she stepped up huge,” Wojta said. ”It’s just amazing to see how far Megan has come this year and to see her hit big shots. She wasn’t wide open on some of those 3s and she took it to the lane. . This kid can play.
”She just continues to step up time and time again and I love the mentality she’s playing with, and it’s only going help our team in the (NCAA tournament).”
This loss hit the Titans especially hard. Detroit won at Green Bay in the regular season and came into the title game having won 19 of its last 23 after starting the year 1-8.
Finishing second in the Horizon tourney guaranteed the Titans a WNIT bid but that was small consolation for an emotional coach Autumn Rademacher afterwards.
”It’s amazing. I don’t even know what to say. I don’t know what happened where or when but obviously collectively they got together as a group and said this is what we’re going to do,” Rademacher said of her team’s turnaround. ”I definitely credit the seniors for doing that because I think that at some point you wake up and you say ‘Oh, you know what, this is coming to an end.’
”I’m very pleased with the outcome (of the season). Just falling short is disappointing and you try to maintain your composure but when you’ve got your babies crying, it’s hard.”
Freshman forward Shareta Brown - who was also picked for the all-tournament team - led Detroit with 22 points and nine rebounds before fouling out. Brown had 16 points and seven rebounds in the first half but was held in check in the second.
The Titans’ troubles really began when starting guard Senee Shearer, who had 14 points in 23 minutes to complement Brown, left the game with an injury with just under 17 minutes left.
Detroit had a two-point lead when Shearer left and the Phoenix went on a 11-2 run after the injury to take the lead for good.
Green Bay is heading into the NCAA tournament on a 10-game winning streak and had only one regular-season loss for the second straight year. The Phoenix also won the Horizon League regular-season title.
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