Jessica Kelliher was dominant in the post and finished with a game-high 19 points. Julie Wojta and Mehryn Kraker each posted double-doubles. Hannah Whitish didn’t miss a shot from the floor in posting another double-figure outing.
As impressive as the stat lines were in the Wisconsin GLO’s 81-67 win over the Flint Monarchs inside Menominee Nation Arena on Saturday night, it really wasn’t anything out of the ordinary for this collection of talent.
That’s just the type of team the GLO brings to the court.
“We can play one through however many are on the bench and that’s what’s neat about this team. Whoever is in there can perform,” Wojta said. “Everyone moves the ball, passes, plays defense, is selfless. That’s the kind of team I like to play on and I think that’s the kind of team everyone can show their attributes on.”
When clicking, it’s certainly the kind of team that can make things difficult for opponents.
“We do have 12, 13, 14, 15, whatever it is of the more talented players in the league and that’s a monster to compete against us,” Kraker said. “It could be anybody’s day and you have seen that a lot this year. It’s exciting to know that if it isn’t your day, you have 14 other people you can look at and say, ‘OK, you have to pick me up today’ and you see that it happens.”
And with the league tournament looming next weekend, head coach Lauren Busalacchi wants to be sure the team is hitting on all cylinders as they head to St. Louis to defend their title.
“Everything from this point is about next weekend, finding our rhythm with each other and making sure we are ready to go,” said Busalacchi, whose team played without leading scorer Taylor Wurtz. “We didn’t shoot well, we didn’t rebound well and we didn’t take care of the ball very well in the first half tonight. But the second half we just came out and were a little more locked in.”
Wojta scored eight of the GLO’s first 10 points of the second half as Wisconsin was able to extend its five-point lead at intermission to a 45-38 advantage midway through the third quarter.
The former UW-Green Bay standout finished with 15 points and a team-high 12 rebounds for her first double-double of the season. She also played a team-high 34 minutes and added six assists and three steals in the win.
“Julie was all over the place tonight. She’s just been awesome,” Busalacchi said. “We put her in a tough spot because we had her playing outside of her normal position but she was playing big, rebounding and making plays.”
Flint, which led for only 13 seconds in the opening minute of the game, wasn’t about to let the GLO just walk away.
The Monarchs were able to slice the deficit down to three with about three minutes left in the third quarter but never had a possession to tie the game or take the lead.
“Enough of us are deep enough in our careers where we know teams are going to make good runs at us,” Wojta said. “We want that. We want to play against that level of competition that’s going to give us a challenge.”
When the Monarchs got close, Kraker knocked down a 3-pointer and then found a wide-open Frankie Wurtz for another trey to push the lead back to a more comfortable nine points.
“We’ve missed Mehryn a lot of the summer. She’s one of our top players for sure,” Busalacchi said. “She came in locked in and continued it through the second half and made some really big shots and big plays for us.”
Kraker finished with 14 points and 11 rebounds off the bench for the GLO as the team’s depth was once again a big factor in the victory. With Whitish chipping in 12 points, Wisconsin’s bench outscored Flint’s reserves 31-0.
“That’s what my role is and it was easy for me to buy in,” Kraker said. “When you’ve accepted your role and are excited about your role then you know all you have to do is go out there and do your best. Whatever it means that I do, I do and try to do it with a smile on my face.”
A Sam Logic driving layup boosted Wisconsin’s lead to 57-46 entering the fourth quarter and the GLO used a 10-4 midway through the period to take its biggest lead of the night at 71-54 on a Whitish layup with 5:05 remaining.
Flint did get as close as 73-64 with 2:51 left but Kraker knocked down a 3-pointer off a Wojta assist with 2:25 remaining and the GLO kept its lead in double digits the rest of the way.
“It’s good to be tested going into the playoffs,” Kraker said. “It’s about fighting through those ebbs and flows of a game and building that momentum so you are feeling good going into the playoffs.”
Sparkle Taylor scored 18 points to lead the Monarchs, who were an impressive 15-of-16 from the free-throw line in the game. Ciani Cryor added a double-double with 17 points and 10 rebounds.
The GLO will wrap up their regular season and play their final home game on Sunday, August 8 against the Detroit Queens at 3 p.m at the Menominee Nation Arena.
“It’s fun to play with these girls,” Wojta said. “We’re realizing it’s almost the end to another season and so we’re trying to have fun out there and it shows.”