By Joseph Phelan, @JPhelan13
Last Friday against North Carolina State, the Bonnies crumbled when things grew tough.
NC State led by as many as 40.
But as head coach Jim Crowley has acknowledged before — this season will not be won or lost with one game, but rather how the Bonnies improve as the nonconference schedule erodes.
Friday presents another challenge for the Bonnies to prove themselves, and the goal remains the same for Crowley.
“I just want to see them not back down,” said Crowley.
Wisconsin-Green Bay has one of the more successful women’s basketball programs in the country.
“People out here don’t realize how good they are. They’re like Marist—they win every year,” said Crowley. “It’s something obscene with how many years in a row they won their league. I think it is like 19 or 20 years straight they’ve won their league. That’s unheard of in this time—that someone could stay that good that long.”
It’s been 15 straight regular season Horizon League champions for Wisconsin-Green Bay; still a rare, impressive number.
Wisconsin-Green Bay has won 22 straight regular season games. The Phoenix play smart, focused, driven basketball — everything a coach could want. All five players can be threats, and Crowley stressed how well they move the ball.
“They pass the ball really, really well,” he said. “Probably as well as anyone we will see all year. They have really good assist numbers. They share the ball and make the extra pass.”
A win would be great, but Crowley wants a lesson to be learned regardless of the result.
“For us, at this point in time it is a great game to see how well we compete, it’s a great game to see how well we adjust because they are going to take advantage of our mistakes,” said Crowley.
Not only will this game help Crowley see how his team can compete, it could also show the Bonnies how players from the Phoenix compare to Atlantic 10 players.
Breannah Ranger, a 6-foot-2 redshirt senior, draws comparison from Crowley to Richmond’s Genevieve Okoro, while redshirt junior guard Megan Lukan reminds Crowley of Fordham’s Erin Rooney, a returning First Team All-Atlantic 10 member.
“The inside kid (Ranger) really hurt us last year. She is really athletic and active, so that is a good match up for us,” said Crowley.
It should help Gabrielle Richmond and Katie Healy since they will be dealing with Ranger tonight and Okoro in January. And sizing up Lukan tonight should help prepare Emily Michael and Nyla Rueter for facing Fordham in February.
Chelsea Bowker, barring any setback, will start tonight in place of Hannah Little.
Bowker shot well, 4-6 from three, in the Bonnies win against Colgate last Sunday.
And although Little losses her starting role, it has nothing to do with her level of play or Crowley’s confidence in her.
Crowley simply wants her to give the Bonnies a boost.
“(We are) trying to get a spark off the bench, (Little can) bring some energy off the bench and be able to kind of make a difference when she comes in the game,” said Crowley.
The Bonnies will need Little to provide that boost tonight, and for Crowley this game will be able to show how his team focuses against another tough opponent.
“I just want to see us really compete for 40 minutes, focus on what’s in front of us, just focus on this game and what we need to do for one another to play at the best level we can,” he said.